Review: Johnny Depp Gives Bad A Great Name As Whitey Bulger In ‘Black Mass’

Movies & TV

Notorious crime lord Whitey Bulger made f*ckery his day job. Slapped with two life sentences after being involved with drug trafficking and murders of countless two-timers who crossed his path, the IRL South Boston villain comes back to reignite your worst nightmares with a dead-on performance from Johnny Depp in Black Mass (Warner Bros.). Under pounds of foundation and hair plugs, Depp’s version of Bulger makes the eyeliner-loving Captain Jack Sparrow in Pirates of the Caribbean look like a Halloween get-up.

Then, the creepy settles in.

With a steel gaze and icy blue eyes, Bulger by way of Depp could make any civilian crap their pants. As an Irish crime boss who doesn’t flinch while raining bullets on an informant in broad daylight (RIP Brian Halloran, one of the bigger casualties of snitching on Bulger) and leaving the dirty work to his right-hand, Stephen Flemmi, requires some demented sense of reality and zero morals. As eccentric as Depp’s IMDb profile is, his twisted side as a Southie is way up there with some of his best characters.

Gore is imminent as the bloodshed in the film could rival an old school WWF match but the pins-and-needles feeling never escapes you throughout the two-hour affair. Bulger meticulously plays the FBI after forming “an alliance” with his childhood friend and Feds agent, John Connolly Jr. (Joel Edgerton) in an effort to squash the Italian Mafia family cramping on Bulger’s turf. Keeping a low profile also proves difficult with Whitey’s brother, Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), becoming a hot shot politician.

The most intense scene comes with zero carnage, though, at a quaint mixer among the outlaws and the crooked Feds. While Connolly’s missus is not here for harboring a couple of notorious scumbags under her roof, her husband continues to pour up the beer and fire up the grill. Bulger then asks agent John Morris for the secret family recipe for his succulent steak marinade. After offering up the ingredients after two tries, John Morris gets quickly acquainted with Bulger’s dark sense of humor. “I thought it was a family secret and you gave it up to me—boom—just like that,” Bulger taunts. “Just saying is what people get sent away. Just saying got me a nine-year stretch in Alcatraz, you understand? So just saying could get you buried real quick.” Cue deadpan before diabolical laugh.

You almost want to show sympathy for Bulger, especially when he loses his son and card game-loving mother until you remember that his coping mechanisms included deeds that placed him as one of the top targets on the FBI’s Most Wanted list. His squad also includes some men with a conscious, all torn between splurging the riches of criminal life and killing people who may not deserve it. Trying to squeeze in over two decades of no-good activity would require several seasons of a Netflix original series but director Scott Cooper keeps your knuckles white from gripping your popcorn, soda and seats with fear for a healthy amount of time. After a secret tip to the F.B.I. sends Bulger packing to the pen, harsh realities settle in for every felon. Inspired by the 2000 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill, Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth’s script brings the laughs, the shrieks and gasps. The verdict: Breaking bad never looked this good.

Catch Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass, hitting theaters today, Sept. 18.