Black Mass movie full length review - Great acting, horrible execution
Perhaps it was my own fault for expecting "Black Mass" to be a classic gangster flick when I walked into the theater; setting my own expectations too high and ultimately having the bar being lowered so much that I could hardly even remember where the bar had initially even BEEN by the end of it.
When the ending credits started to roll at the almost two-hour mark that the movie lasted, I internally shook my head and wondered if suggesting it to my father and brother as an idea for something to do that Sunday was a mistake. It almost felt like a funeral procession when everyone left that room, wanting to get home and forget about the sorrowful thing they'd just been involved in. A few people commented to each other about the facts of James "Whitey" Bulger that they knew before going in, but other than that, it was nearly dead silent. Shouldn't viewers walk out of a theater smiling and making remarks about their favorite parts or lines of it to others around them instead of looking like they'd just been to a cemetery to put a deceased loved one to rest?
I might as well start with my biggest complaint: the music. No matter how bad of a movie I've ever seen, I could at least say that the soundtrack to it was decent enough and could stand alone as something worth listening to. "Black Mass" wins the record of being the first and so far only movie on my list of films that were ruined by a horrible soundtrack. I've never heard of Tom Holkenberg before, but whoever he is, I would suggest him for overly-serious dramas or perhaps even daytime TV shows instead of crime movies. In almost every other scene, there was dark, ominous orchestral/electronic score that popped up either before or immediately after a murder or (what was at least supposed to be before it was soiled) interesting scene. Quite often, the most shocking or grisly things we see in movies or TV has no music of any kind to it to enhance what you're seeing and make it that much more intense to watch, and I can safely say that "Black Mass" had much less of a dramatic or intense impact as it could have had without it. Some scenes were even spoiled for me because of hearing the almost exact same dreary piece annoyingly slide in right before them, like a friend who just shows up on your doorstep and coyly asks you right before dinner begins if they can have a seat at the table next to you. The two songs I can recall that were in the movie, The Animals' "Don't Bring Me Down" and Ella Fitzgerald's rendition of "Jingle Bells," were better than the entire score combined. One, because they're both classics and fondly memorable to me, and two, because unlike the score, they were actually well-placed and almost perfectly fit with the scenes that they were in. Martin Scorsese, for example, threw in all kinds of nostalgic music from the time periods that "Goodfellas" and "Casino" were in, but with just two songs that I can remember and a bad original score in this movie, it just fell completely flat.
The one good thing I can say about this film is that there was not a single person in the whole cast that I thought didn't do a VERY good job. Everyone, especially Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton, should be very proud of themselves because of the roles they played and how they played them. Even Adam Scott, a familiar face I know from the 2008 laugh-out-loud riot "Step Brothers" and some other comedic roles in TV shows, was good in the few scenes he was actually in as an FBI agent, proving to me that he can easily be convincingly dramatic and deadly serious when he needs to instead of just the funny man most people probably know him best for.
That all being said, however, brings me to my other complaint: the overall execution, or severe lack thereof. There probably isn't a single Oscar nominee/winner on the planet, alive or dead, who could have saved this movie by their acting skills. There was almost no style or standout trait to how this was shot whatsoever, and there was perhaps one murder scene in the entire movie out of the half- dozen of them that there were (give or take one, maybe two) that was surprising or shocking to me in any way because of how predictable the whole thing was. Almost every death to me was seen coming a mile away, especially two in particular that involve Bulger driving out to some obscure location or area free of witnesses with his intended victim and one or two fellow mob members in tow, has a short conversation with them, and then kills them seemingly out of the blue. To again reference two of Scorsese's gangster movies, this was a formula that worked very well for him in "Goodfellas" and "Casino" in the early/mid-90's but has since been nearly exhausted in similar films because of how often it's used, and mostly without alteration or a different approach to it to at least throw the viewer for a loop, too. Perhaps the aforementioned murder scenes were intended to be sudden or surprising to the audience, but to me at least, they were almost laughably foreshadowed and obvious.
In short, though I thought that the acting was superb and some of the storyline was interesting, this was overall not a good movie and is probably not worth spending your money on to see at an actual theater. It was overly dreary and almost downright depressing; it seemed like no one even had fun making it. You're probably better off reading the book that this movie was based off of instead of watching the actual movie itself.