Black Mass - Doing a deal with the devil - 3 stars

'Bulger's playing us, making a fool of the Bureau. We're in too deep, and he knows it! God help us all.'

Walking into the cinema...
Sometimes, Johnny Depp is at his best in 1970's dramas, but can this film offer anything different in getting a glimpse into the world of organised crime? 

Overall Rating: 3 stars
Cinematic rating: 3.5 stars 
Bigger questions rating: 3 stars      

      "Doing a deal with the devil." This could have been the title for this true life story about James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) and John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). Two men who grew up on the streets of South Boston and chose different paths in life, one of crime and one of law enforcement. Travelling through four decades of their lives, Connolly is a leading investigator in the Boston branch of the FBI and Whitey is the leader of the Irish Mob in South Boston. Due to their neighbourhood history on the streets, they re-connect and make a deal that gives the FBI access to information that lead to the arrests of leading crime figures and enemies of Bulger's gang. This deal with the FBI does have an adverse effect in it allowing Bulger to grow his criminal empire without any repercussions. The FBI comes to realise that this deal only benefits Whitey and his gang and leads to the downfall of all who are connected with this Irish-American crime lord. 
         Historically, the term Black Mass has its religious origins in rituals that celebrate the devil and the dead. Whitey Bulger embodies both of these elements through his interpretation of morality and the outcome for anyone who gets in his way. Johnny Depp provides the explosive and brooding elements needed to deliver this convincing performance as the Bostonian gangster. Proving that he still has the ability to deliver excellent acting performances that do not require a pirate hat. Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart) surrounds Depp with a stellar cast that provide the intensity to propel this biographical journey to it’s hellish end. Joel Edgerton plays the self-promoting FBI agent convincingly and shows what it costs to cross the line of loyalty of friends and moral convictions. The laundry list of supporting players goes on and on, but all provide the needed components to help Cooper to traverse through four decades of criminal activity. He connects most of the characters through a series of interviews who are willing to give Whitey Bulger up in the end. 
         The script, actors and portrayal of the various decades were well directed, but the challenge was enjoying the story being played out on the screen. At the beginning of the film, there were some humorous moments that add some light to this dark tale, but the remainder was a continual downward spiral into the abyss that represents the world of Whitey Bulger. Black Mass is a fascinating, but macabre part of Boston's folklore that translates well to film, but is not an enjoyable experience. In equating the film screening to being in prison, one could say that on leaving the cinema, it felt like time served. 

REEL DIALOGUE: What are some of the bigger questions to consider from this film?

         Loyalty is both fascinating and confusing, it is defined as being faithful to something on someone. People will put their money, careers and lives on the line for the sake of loyalty to family, friends or countries. In Black Mass, most of the characters lose their lives or livelihood because of the loyalty to one man. It begs the question, why do we choose to be loyal or faithful to someone else? It seems to be rooted in wanting to place an implicit trust in the person we put our faith and knowing that this loyalty will be reciprocated. The Bible plies a deeper meaning to the idea of loyalty. What can be seen is that God is the only one that is completely faithful. He is faithful even when his followers are faithless. The thing to consider is that with mankind, loyalty can be fleeting, but with God we can find real loyalty and someone who is true to their word.  

1. Is lying ever justified in life? (Proverbs 19:9, Psalm 101:7)
2. Can we ever find justice? (Proverbs 21:15, Romans 12:19)
3. Is revenge ever justified? (Romans 12:17-21, 1 Peter 3:9)

Leaving the cinema...
Johnny Depp and the cast were well directed. The central character lacks any moral centre which leads to a hyper-violent film with excessive language. It is a realistic historical account of South Boston, but is not recommended for families or those with weak constitutions. 

Trailer for the film

Written by Russell Matthews based on a five star rating system @ Russelling Reviews #russellingreviews #sicario