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Scott Cooper
Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch, Joel Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon
Writing Credits:
Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth

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.

Box Office:
$65 million.
Opening Weekend
$22,635,037 on 3,188 Screens.
Domestic Gross

Rated R.

Aspect Ratio: 2.40:1
English DTS-HD MA 5.1
English Descriptive Audio
French Dolby Digital 5.1
Spanish Dolby Digital 5.1
Portuguese Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements Subtitles:

Runtime: 123 min.
Price: $35.99
Release Date: 2/16/2016

• “Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime” Featurette
• “Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger” Featurette
• “The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger” Documentary
• DVD Copy


Panasonic TC-P60VT60 60-Inch 1080p 600Hz 3D Smart Plasma HDTV; Sony STR-DG1200 7.1 Channel Receiver; Panasonic DMP-BD60K Blu-Ray Player using HDMI outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Kenwood 1050SW 150-watt Subwoofer.


Black Mass [Blu-Ray] (2015)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (February 7, 2016)

Famed gangster James “Whitey” Bulger becomes the focus of 2015’s Black Mass. Set in South Boston during the 1970s, we learn that Bulger (Johnny Depp) controls most organized crime in the area, but he feels competition from others.

That factor leads Bulger to adopt a second life as FBI informant. We see his contact with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) but also sense that Connolly may cover for Bulger’s sins a little too much. Add in the fact that Bulger’s brother Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) stands as a respected state senator and complications ensue.

Martin Scorsese shows such a heavy influence over so many filmmakers that I sometimes think they should pay him royalties. While a story about Whitey Bulger could be told without the existence of GoodFellas, this presentation wouldn’t be nearly the same.

The pervasive shadow of Scorsese can become a distraction during Black Mass, as the movie occasionally feels a little too much like a knock-off. This isn’t a fatal flaw, but it’s a problem when a film actively reminds you of an earlier, superior effort. Heck, Mass even offers a scene that clearly reprises the famous “do I amuse you?” bit from GoodFellas - bad call!

That doesn’t become the main problem with Mass, though. While entertaining, the film comes with awkward choices that damage it.

Storytelling seems erratic, especially in terms of character development. At the start, Mass introduces Bulger associate Kevin (Jesse Plemons) in a way that leads us to believe he’ll be a major player, with a strong implication that we’ll see the narrative through his eyes.

And then Kevin almost immediately recedes to the background. Why bother to set up the role as a significant presence only to virtually abandon him so quickly? This makes no sense and creates a weird distraction, as we wait for Kevin to achieve a prominence that never comes.

Mass also lacks much balance in the way it depicts various roles. We get little subtlety, especially in the way it presents Whitey.

As portrayed here, Whitey enjoys hardly any form of personality beyond concentrated evil. We should see some positives in the role, but after a token sequence in which an old lady mentions his importance to the community, we get little other than violence and cruelty out of Whitey.

Depp’s snarling performance doesn’t help. Depp makes Whitey an interesting personality, but he never feels like a real person, as that pervasive sense of evil becomes overwhelming. Cripes, Depp’s Bulger offers such a “movie monster” that at one point, I actually thought he’d turn into a bat and fly away.

Edgerton’s Connolly also seems one-dimensional. His unrelenting loyalty to Whitey makes it impossible to believe he’d be taken seriously at his job, for his agenda appears so clear. Edgerton plays the part in a blustery, broad manner that turns the character into an unbelievable participant.

Black Mass could’ve been a very good movie, but the end result seems too derivative for my liking. It fails to find its own identity and it offers only erratic pleasures.

The Blu-ray Grades: Picture B+/ Audio B/ Bonus B

Black Mass appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 2.40:1 on this Blu-ray Disc. The movie came with a quality presentation.

Overall sharpness seemed strong. Only a little softness emerged, so the flick was usually accurate and detailed. No issues with jagged edges or shimmering occurred, and I noticed no edge haloes. Source flaws were absent, as the movie looked consistently clean.

Colors tended toward amber and/or teal, with a subdued sensibility. Within those parameters, the hues were positive. Blacks seemed deep and dark, while shadows showed good smoothness and clarity. I felt happy with the transfer.

As for the DTS-HD MA 5.1 soundtrack of Black Mass, it came with moderate ambition. The soundfield focused on music and ambience, though it opened up on occasion. For instance, violent scenes became a little more involving, and some street/bar/rain segments enjoyed a good sense of place. None of these dazzled, but they added to the overall impact.

Audio quality was fine. Speech seemed natural and concise, without edginess or other issues. Music offered good clarity and range, and effects worked well enough, with clean highs and warm lows. The track never became rock-em sock-em, but the mix suited the material.

Three video programs appear. Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime runs 23 minutes and offers comments from director Scott Cooper, producers John Lesher, Patrick McCormick and Brian Oliver, co-authors Gerard O’Neill and Dick Lehr, and actors Johnny Depp, Benedict Cumberbatch and Joel Edgerton. The piece looks at Cooper’s approach to the material as well as story/character/script areas, and locations. “Cover” gives us a decent overview but it seems a little more vague than I’d like, so it becomes a fairly average show.

Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger lasts 12 minutes, 24 seconds and features Depp, Cooper, Lehr, Cumberbatch, Edgerton, makeup department head Joel Harlow and actors Jesse Plemons, David Harbour and Julianne Nicholson. As implied by the title, “Becoming” focuses on elements required to allow Depp to portray Bulger. Some of the inevitable praise results, but overall this offers a good look at the issues.

Finally, The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger goes for one hour, one minute and 38 seconds. It gives us remarks from Lehr, O’Neill, TV reporter David Boeri, Massachusetts Colonel/Superintendent (Ret.) Thomas J. Foley, Boston radio talk show host Howie Carr, FBI Special Agents Richard Deslauriers, Scott Garriola and Phil Torsney, Massachusetts State Police Det. Lt. Inspector (Ret.) Robert J. Long, FBI Supervisor Special Agent Richard E. Teahan, US Marshal John Gibbons, Princess Eugenia Apartments manager Josh Bond, uand Deputy US Marshal Neil Sullivan.

As expected, “Manhunt” looks at the efforts behind attempts to apprehend Bulger. With more than an hour at its disposal, “Manhunt” gets the time to dig into its subject, and it does so in a satisfying manner.

A second disc provides a DVD copy of Black Mass. It includes “Becoming Whitey Bulger” but it lacks the other extras.

Fans of gangster films will experience déjà vu as they watch Black Mass. Fairly watchable in its own right, the movie loses points due to its derivative nature and lack of real depth. The Blu-ray offers very good picture as well as positive audio and supplements highlighted by an informative historical documentary. Black Mass has its moments but it mostly falls short of its goals.

Viewer Film Ratings: 2.8 Stars Number of Votes: 5
4 3:
View Averages for all rated titles.

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