Black Mass: A Sort of Movie Review (Kinda)

Johnny Depp is a great actor. Though I think Harrison Ford is an awesome guy too, pretty much he plays the same character is every movie. Stoic. Taciturn. Self-interested. But Johnny Depp plays a wide range of characters.

In Black Mass, Depp is Boston gangster Whitey Bulger. Though a Kentucky native, Depp nails the Southie accent. This matters to me as a Mainer because Hollywood usually gets the Maine accent very wrong, and they’re not much more skilled with Boston.

Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Whitey’s brother Billy, does a decent job with the Southie accent too, especially considering that Cumberbatch is British. Oddly, I thought Julianne Nicholson’s accent sounded fake, even though it turns out that she’s from Medford, north of Boston.

Where was I? Oh, yeah. Black Mass is a great movie that I really enjoyed. I know, it’s not Goodfellas, but it’s not trying to be.

Of everything I could say about Black Mass, I want to focus on Billy Bulger. The movie’s not about him. His brother, Whitey, was the mobster. But to be a mobster takes not only brutality, but also intelligence. Billy was as brilliant as his brother, but he chose Boston College over organized crime. A Massachusetts state senator, and later president of the University of Massachusetts system, his career ended when it was revealed that he had a phone conversation with Whitey, who was on the lam at the time.

Obviously, I don’t know Billy personally. But the movie portrays him as an honest man who loved his brother, despite Whitey being a murderer.

Should Billy have turned his back on Whitey? I’m not entitled to answer that question. Only Billy is.

But I do respect what a tough choice that is, and I have no judgment of Billy for risking his career to talk with his brother. And Billy did apologize for the pain Whitey caused the families of his victims. But let’s not forget that Billy was put into an untenable situation not of his choosing. I respect his dilemma and tough choices, and I couldn’t have handled it any better (probably worse).

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Author: Dave DuBay

Dave is a social worker from Phoenix, Arizona. He blogs at thepaintedporch.net. He's also at twitter.com/Dave_DuBay.

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