Movie Review: Black Mass

Movie Review: Black Mass


Movie Review: Black Mass
Black Mass is a 2015 American crime hisorical film directed by Scott Cooper and written by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, based on the 2001 book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. The film has an ensemble cast including Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Kevin Bacon, Jesse Plemons, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Adam Scott, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll.

The film follows the criminal career of infamous Irish-American mobster Whitey Bulger . Principal photography of the film began on May 19, 2014 in Boston, and wrapped on August 1, 2014. It had its world premiere at the 72nd Venice International Film Festival, and was released by Warner Bros. worldwide on September 18, 2015.

In 1975, James “Whitey” Bulger, leader of the Irish-American Winter Hill Gang, controls almost all of organized crime within South Boston, along with his right-hand man Stephen Flemmi, newcomer Kevin Weeks, and callous hitman, Johnny Martorano. Bulger’s hold over South Boston is challenged by the North end Angiulo Brothers, who head up a rival gang with ties to the New England Mafia family. An unexpected opportunity arises with the return of FBI agent John Connolly to South Boston; Connolly being a former native of the area and friend of Whitey and his brother William “Billy” Bulger, who is the Massachusetts State Senate President. Connolly’s arrival in Boston induces him to try infiltrating the experienced Angiulo Brothers. Connolly tries to get Whitey’s cooperation but Whitey detests of the idea of becoming an informant. However, Whitey begins to relent after assessing the advantages and protection which he gains through his participation with the FBI for himself, his friends, and his family. After the Angiulo Brothers murder a Winter Hill gang member, Whitey becomes an informant.

Connolly’s control over Whitey is scrutinized by his boss, Charles McGuire though Connolly is supported by his close co-worker, John Morris. Tensions increase as Whitey exploits the FBI informant relationship, using Connolly’s “protection” as a cover for his crimes. He becomes emotional when his son Douglas develops Reye syndrome and dies, triggering Whitey to become more violent. Connolly then begins demanding information on the Angiulos’ racketeering locations. Finally, Whitey gets pictures of the rival gang’s hideouts, allowing the FBI to wiretap the Angiulos. Before the FBI can terminate the informant operation, the wiretaps pick up incriminating evidence about the Angiulos. The FBI arrests them, thus eliminating underground opposition to Whitey’s power. Connolly, blinded by his past, grows closer to Whitey and the gang, even inviting them to his house for a cookout. His wife, Marianne, is disgusted by them and is also alarmed at the changes in her husband since his agent-informant relationship with Whitey started growing.

Problems arise later as Whitey is cut out of an embezzlement scheme from World Jai Alai. In retribution, he orders Martorano to murder his rivals Roger Wheeler and John Callahan. Whitey suspects that an associate who overhears the murder plan, Brian Halloran is untrustworthy, so he pays him off to leave the meeting. Fearing for his life, Halloran goes to the FBI to report Whitey’s involvement in the crime. Connolly and Morris dismiss Halloran’s accusations against Bulger, citing his unreliability. Connolly, fearing Whitey is in too deep, tells Whitey of Halloran’s accusation, resulting in the murders of Halloran and an unnamed accomplice. Due to Whitey’s increasingly violent and unpredictable behavior, his informant relationship deteriorates.

Downfall begins when a “bulldog” prosecutor, Fred Wyshak, becomes an assistant U. S. Attorney in Boston. Connolly attempts to make friends with him, but Wyshak bluntly refuses and demands that the FBI arrest Whitey. When John McIntyre, an informant within the Winter Hill Gang, blows the whistle on an attempt by Whitey to smuggle weapons for the Provisional Irish Republican Army, he is brutally beaten and garroted by Whitey — once again following Connolly’s inside information. Wyshak and McGuire investigate Connolly’s management of Whitey’s informant role, and discover that most of what Connolly represented as Whitey’s tips merely repeated information already obtained from other law enforcement sources. Morris reveals the true nature of Connolly and Whitey’s relationship to The Boston Globe which publishes a front-page story exposing the FBI’s links to organised crime. The article causes Whitey to lose control over his gang, which collapses.

In the final scenes, Connolly, Flemmi, Weeks, and Martorano are arrested. Whitey goes on the run, but not before giving Billy a final goodbye from a pay phone. Morris turns state’s evidence and testifies against Connolly in return for immunity. After Connolly’s and the other characters’ sentences are listed, a concluding sequence reveals a now-elderly Whitey being caught by the FBI in 2011, 16 years after the crackdown.