ABC Film Challenge – Random – B – Black Mass (2015)

Director: Scott Cooper

Writer: Mark Mallouk, Jez Butterworth (Screenplay) Dick Lehr, Gerard O’Neill (Book)

Starring: Johnny Depp, Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Kevin Bacon, Peter Sarsgaard, Jesse Plemons, Rory Cochrane

 

Plot: The true story of Whitey Bulger, the brother of a state senator and the most infamous violent criminal in the history of South Boston, who became an FBI informant to take down a Mafia family invading his turf.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Story: Black Mass starts as Kevin Weeks (Plemons) wants to give up his life of crime recounting his story of how he found himself working for Jimmy Whitey Bulger (Depp). Jimmy is the Irish crime boss expanding around South Boston whose brother is now a Senator Billy (Cumberbatch) who gets the information that FBI agent and old friend John Connolly (Edgerton) has been given the greenlight to bring down the Mafia who also own the street in South Boston.

We see how Jimmy makes a deal with Connolly to create an alliance with the FBI to take down the other gangs in South Boston with only his most loyal worker Stephen Flemmi (Cochrane) knowing the truth. With the freedom to build his empire Jimmy takes advantage of the FBI letting him run amuck through South Boston the rise of Whitey Bulger becomes clear.

 

Thoughts on Black Mass

 

Characters/PerformanceJimmy, James ‘Whitey’ Bulger whichever name you want to call him by is the ruthless gangster that lived and reigned in South Boston through the 70’s and 80’s, he is loyal to anyone he trusts but once you betray his trust he will kill you. He becomes an informant for the FBI and uses this to his advantage. John Connolly is the FBI agent that uses his connections in Boston to build his own reputation by making the deal with Jimmy to help him bring down the other gangs in Boston. Billy Bulger is the brother of Jimmy and a senator that keeps his brother’s connection away from his professional life. The rest of the characters are all the different parts of the story be it within the FBI or within Jimmy’s gang.

Performance wise, Johnny Depp gives one of his best performances in year but still doesn’t reach the levels we know he can do, Joel Edgerton continues to build his career to be creditable leading man with Cumberbatch making his presence know when needed, the rest of the performances are all good without being able to find a weak point in any of them.

StoryThe story of a notorious gangster is something we have seen before just replace the gangsters name and we know how this will unfold. I personally didn’t know who Whitey Bulger was going into this film so this was a learning process but as I am not a fan of gangster films I just didn’t get pulled into the story because we just don’t get enough of the story of why Jimmy is motivated to become the gangster in the first place and we are dealing with flashbacks from all the major characters in jail.

Biography/CrimeLearning part of the life of Whitey Bulger is interesting enough to learn but we don’t understand how far up the reign of terror got, the crime side does all look good though.

SettingsThe settings show us the time in which the film takes place is fine they all fit the era.

Final ThoughtsThis is a good look into the process but sadly doesn’t give us enough about what happened as Whitey grew in reputation.

 

Overall: Has plenty going on but misses too many important moments.

Rating

 

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Casey Affleck Weekend – Out of the Furnace (2013)

Director: Scott Cooper

Writer: Brad Ingelsby, Scott Cooper (Screenplay)

Starring: Christian Bale, Woody Harrelson, Casey Affleck, Forest Whitaker, Willem Dafoe, Zoe Saldana, Sam Shepard

 

Plot: When Rodney Baze mysteriously disappears and law enforcement doesn’t follow through fast enough, his older brother, Russell, takes matters into his own hands to find justice.

 

There may be spoilers the rest of the review

 

Verdict: Gritty Crime Thriller

 

Story: Out of the Furnace starts as we meet the key character in this depressive downbeat town, we have aggressive new criminal Harlan DeGroat (Harrelson), the current crime boss John Petty (Dafoe), hardworking Russell (Bale) and his brother soldier Rodney (Affleck), Russell girlfriend Lena (Saldana) and Chief Wesley (Whitaker).

Russell looks out for Rodney but when he is involved in a manslaughter case he finds himself in prison, while away Rodney finds himself working for Petty owing him money. Rodney desperate to make the money quick forces John into booking a fight in Harlan territory, to make a large pay day.

When Rodney finds himself in more trouble, he vanishes after the fight for Harlan, leaving a note to Russell about the change he is going to make with his life. When Russell isn’t happy with the speed, the police are taking finding his brother and Harlan he takes matters into his own hands risking his own newly acquired freedom.

 

Thoughts on Out of the Furnace

 

Characters/PerformanceRussell is the everyday man who always looks out for his brother, works hard to make a living and start a family but his life is turned upside when he is involved in an accident landing him in jail. He shows that he will do anything to protect his own family. Harlan is you typical crime boss who believes he is toughest around, deadly when needed to be. Rodney is the easily led astray young man who feels like he doesn’t get what he deserves after his time in Iraq turning to underground fighting. Wesley is the basic cop we don’t see enough from, Lena is the girlfriend that only shows what could have been with John being a nice criminal if that makes sense.

Performance wise Bale shines in the leading role with Affleck showing all of his acting skills in the supporting role. Harrelson is good and creepy but also seems to enjoy this role slightly too much. Looking deeper into the cast Whitaker, Saldana and Dafoe are all good but could be replaced by another actor.

StoryThe story shows how the bleak desperate people will turn to illegal actions to make money. We have elements of the criminal underworld which all comes through as we see how the fighting takes place and we see how one brother seeks answers on a one man mission. I liked how this was just a body building count for Russell, he goes straight to the source of the problems. This also does feel like many films we have seen before with the huge issue I had was not knowing how long he was in prison for.

Crime/ThrillerThe criminal underworld fight scenes are great with the whole idea that the criminals control the town, we are kept on edge as we wonder just how far Russell will go.

SettingsEach setting shows us just how much of a struggle most days are for these people, giving the criminal life the only escape they can get.

Special EffectsWe don’t have many here, most are just well drawn out fight sequences and well placed gun shots.

Final ThoughtsThis is a dark gritty crime thriller that is a good watch, it does have a couple of plot holes but otherwise good addition to the genre.

 

Overall: Crime thriller fans enjoy.

Rating