Reviews - Black Mass (2015)
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Black Mass (2015)

Country: USA, UK

Genres: Biography, Crime, Drama

Taglines: Based on the true story of one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history

Director: Scott Cooper

Writers: Dick Lehr, Mark Mallouk, Gerard O'Neill, Jez Butterworth, ...

Stars: Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Juno Temple, ...

Based on a true story of James "Whitey" Bulger, an Irish Mob godfather and FBI informant who had a "secret trading" deal with his brother, William "Billy" Bulger, a state senator and a Boston public figure, and John Connolly, an FBI agent. They planned to take down the Italian mob and mafia in Boston, which went awry and things turned massively violent. When the credence for each other began fading out, drug dealing, murders, and extortion started to rise, and forced the FBI's Boston office to confirm that Whitey Bulger was one of the most notorious criminals in US history and also one of the FBI's Ten Most Wanted List criminals.

90 | 2015-09-04 | Scott Foundas

If Johnny Depp’s mesmerizing performance — a bracing return to form for the star after a series of critical and commercial misfires — is the chief selling point of Black Mass, there is much else to recommend this sober, sprawling, deeply engrossing evocation of Bulger’s South Boston fiefdom and his complex relationship with the FBI agent John Connolly, played with equally impressive skill by Joel Edgerton.
Read More: Variety

88 | 2015-09-17 | Brian Truitt

As notorious gangster James “Whitey” Bulger, Depp astounds with one of the best performances in his long career while co-star Joel Edgerton steps up equally well as John Connolly, an ethically questionable FBI agent who flirts with the wrong side of the law.
Read More: USA Today

88 | 2015-09-17 | Peter Travers

Ice-cold. Dead eyes. Demonic laugh. His face a mask you can't read until he's up in yours. Then run. That's Johnny Depp giving everything he's got in a riveting, rattlesnake performance as South Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger in Black Mass.
Read More: Rolling Stone

88 | 2015-09-04 | Alonso Duralde

This is Depp’s show all the way, featuring his best dramatic performance since another organized-crime movie, 1997’s “Donnie Brasco.”
Read More: TheWrap

80 | 2015-11-23 | Chris Hewitt (1)

Compelling and powerfully acted, with just enough wrinkles to avoid the ghosts of gangster movies past. Depp's appearance might distract some, but it's good to see him back in the groove.
Read More: Empire

80 | 2015-11-23 | Neil Smith

Though the women could be stronger and the accents occasionally jar, cooper’s study of moral corruption enthrals. The Johnny-ssance starts here!
Read More: Time Out New York

80 | 2015-09-17 | Kenneth Turan

If the final result doesn't transcend emotionally in the manner of the gold standard of Boston noir, Clint Eastwood's "Mystic River," the fault is not in the execution but the unyieldingly oppressive nature of the underlying material.
Read More: Los Angeles Times

80 | 2015-09-17 | Joe Morgenstern

The film, directed with exceptional flair and elegant concision by Scott Cooper, even comes from Warner Bros., the studio that specialized in psychopathic monsters played by such stars as James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson during Hollywood’s golden age.
Read More: Wall Street Journal

80 | 2015-09-17 | Bill Goodykoontz

The acting in Black Mass is tremendous.
Read More: Arizona Republic

80 | 2015-09-04 | Lee Marshall

Johnny Depp’s broodingly psychotic turn as convicted Boston crime lord James ‘Whitey’ Bulger is not the only tasty thing about Scott Cooper’s tale of the unholy alliance between a South Boston Irish mobster and the FBI.
Read More: Screen International

80 | 2015-09-04 | Peter Bradshaw

Scott Cooper’s Black Mass is a big, brash, horribly watchable gangster picture taken from an extraordinary true story and conceived on familiar generic lines.
Read More: The Guardian

75 | 2015-09-18 | Peter Rainer

Black Mass is like a playlist of greatest hits from other, better movies.
Read More: Christian Science Monitor

75 | 2015-09-18 | Matt Zoller Seitz

For all of its flaws, it's the first film since "Eastern Promises" that has added anything truly fresh to the old school street-level gangster story.
Read More:

75 | 2015-09-17 | Steven Rea

Black Mass, a down and dirty crime drama based on the exploits of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, is thrilling for a number of reasons.
Read More: Philadelphia Inquirer

75 | 2015-09-17 | Lou Lumenick

While highly entertaining and sometimes inspired, Black Mass is more like Scorsese lite. In perhaps the most memorable sequence, Bulger sardonically tests a childhood friend (Joel Edgerton) for loyalty by teasing out a “secret” steak sauce in what’s basically a reworking/homage of Joe Pesci’s famous “I’m funny, how?” scene in “GoodFellas.”
Read More: New York Post

75 | 2015-09-17 | Richard Roeper

This is a good, solid, well-executed crime story. Nothing more, nothing less.
Read More: Chicago Sun-Times

75 | 2015-09-17 | Peter Hartlaub

A solid piece of filmmaking, from subtle beginning to the excessive end.
Read More: San Francisco Chronicle

75 | 2015-09-17 | James Berardinelli

As a dramatic thriller, Black Mass has trouble getting into low orbit. There are some tremendous scenes but the narrative as a whole feels more like a chronology of dastardly dealings than the epic tale of a criminal's rise and fall.
Read More: ReelViews

75 | 2015-09-17 | Michael Phillips

If anything, director Cooper is so intent on portraying Bulger as a man, not a monster, the man comes off a little softer than he was, probably.
Read More: Chicago Tribune

75 | 2015-09-16 | Jesse Hassenger

Without an emotional core, a stronger sociological angle, or many visceral thrills, Black Mass more or less limits itself to procedural status. Within those aims, it’s a pretty good one, absorbing and well-made.
Read More: The A.V. Club

75 | 2015-09-15 | Chris Nashawaty

Cooper, the director of Crazy Heart and the underrated Out of the Furnace, has made a tight and tense gangster film with Black Mass. But it’s a pretty straight-ahead entry in the genre, albeit one peppered with spicy performances.
Read More: Entertainment Weekly

75 | 2015-09-15 | Roger Moore

The “banality of evil” was never so hypocritical, so banal and so evil.
Read More: Movie Nation

70 | 2015-09-18 | Dana Stevens

Depp's performance as Bulger is as strong, and as energized, as anything he's done on screen for years.
Read More: Slate

70 | 2015-09-15 | Stephanie Zacharek

Black Mass is a tightly wound piece of work, and Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) keeps its many small parts moving with ease. He's skillful at merging telling, minute details with bigger, looping schemes.
Read More: Village Voice

70 | 2015-09-04 | Todd McCarthy

Depp's instinct for observing, underlaying and keeping things in, then letting it all out when required, pays big dividends here in a performance far more convincing than his previous big gangster role, John Dillinger in Michael Mann's Public Enemies; it's unexpected, very welcome at this point in his career, and one of his best.
Read More: The Hollywood Reporter

67 | 2015-09-18 | Marc Mohan

He's good, but Depp can't quite annihilate the self-consciousness that makes some of his more light-hearted work shine. Too often, it feels like he's channeling other actors: here he's Jack Nicholson with Hunter S. Thompson's nose, there he's an Irish-American Ray Liotta.
Read More: Portland Oregonian

67 | 2015-09-16 | Kimberley Jones

By necessity, Black Mass begins in a hole it can never dig out of. It’s the portrait of a monster told in a flat line.
Read More: Austin Chronicle

67 | 2015-09-08 | Gregory Ellwood

Despite Depp’s seemingly flawless efforts, less may have been more in conveying just how bloodthirsty Bulger was. Where “Mass” excels is with a stellar cast whose spot on performances keep your interest as the film moves along.
Read More: Hitfix

67 | 2015-09-07 | Eric Kohn

As a movie, Black Mass often drowns its dramatic potential in a dreary atmosphere and grisly violence used to dubious effect. Depp, however, operates on another level.
Read More: indieWIRE

67 | 2015-09-04 | Jessica Kiang

There is nothing underneath the glossy surface and no real insight into what made this man tick — and despite how creepy he looks here, Bulger was a man, not a devil.
Read More: The Playlist

63 | 2015-10-02 | Lawrence Toppman

It’s a well-crafted, well-paced procedural drama about a monotonous psychopath.
Read More: Charlotte Observer

63 | 2015-09-17 | Ty Burr

It’s a solid if not stellar crime drama, well put together, very well acted, and lacking only a genuine reason to exist.
Read More: Boston Globe

60 | 2015-09-21 | Anthony Lane

The movie is often absorbing, and skillfully played, but, along with its snarling hero, it doesn’t have much time for ordinary folk. By the end, like Marianne, we are left gasping for air.
Read More: The New Yorker

60 | 2015-09-17 | Joe Neumaier

The movie itself is an intriguing but ultimately unspecial Feds-vs.-hoods drama. But as the sinister, snakelike South Boston criminal Whitey Bulger, Depp delivers.
Read More: New York Daily News

60 | 2015-09-04 | John Bleasdale

Black Mass is ultimately a decent film with some great parts, but unfortunately it falls short of the canon to which it aspires.
Read More: CineVue

60 | 2015-09-04 | Robbie Collin

It’s hard to shake the suspicion that Depp is playing a type – almost as if he’s trying to replicate the kind of performance Nicholson might have given in the same role. You long for him to roll his sleeves up and grasp the character’s shape and soul himself, ideally without the aid of those distracting prosthetics.
Read More: The Telegraph

60 | 2015-09-04 | Dave Calhoun

It’s Bulger whose grim appearance and even grimmer behaviour ‘Black Mass’ indulges. But it’s the quieter, more complicated Connolly who offers the film’s subtler pleasures.
Read More: Time Out London

50 | 2015-09-18 | David Edelstein

Johnny Depp makes a valiant stab at the part, but even with his hair thinned and lightened and his face hardened, Depp remains Depp: I never forgot I was watching a big star doing an impersonation. It’s as if the spirit of a psychopath like Bulger resists the camera. Or maybe the movie isn’t imaginative enough to penetrate his shell.
Read More: New York Magazine (Vulture)

50 | 2015-09-17 | Steve Persall

By all accounts, Boston mobster James "Whitey" Bulger was a monster. That's exactly how Johnny Depp plays him in Black Mass, a dark blob of underworld cliches and bad contact lenses.
Read More: Tampa Bay Times

50 | 2015-09-17 | Ann Hornaday

Even filmmakers and actors as fine as these haven’t managed to solve one of cinema’s most enduring challenges — making criminals interesting without exalting them.
Read More: Washington Post

50 | 2015-09-17 | Rene Rodriguez

Depp isn’t doing anything different here than he did in "Dark Shadows" or "Alice in Wonderland" or the "Pirates of the Caribbean" movies. Once again, he’s unrecognizable under elaborate makeup and prosthetics, and he speaks with a peculiar voice (this time a thick South Boston accent).
Read More: Miami Herald

50 | 2015-09-17 | A.O. Scott

Mr. Cooper’s direction is skillful, if overly reliant on borrowed Scorseseisms (especially when it comes to music), and the cast is first-rate, but the film is a muddle of secondhand attitudes and half-baked ideas. It feels more like a costume party than a costume drama.
Read More: The New York Times

50 | 2015-09-16 | Christopher Gray

Like any crime saga without a more potent thematic hook, the film's relentlessly insular script dwells on themes of loyalty and fraternity.
Read More: Slant Magazine