The title says it all, it’s a dark, gritty, slow paced, violent and very dramatic movie which previewed yesterday at the Venice Film Festival.

It’s a true story about the unholy alliance between the FBI and Whitey Bulger who is said to be one of the most notorious gangsters in the U.S The year is 1975 and John Connely, who works for the FBI, convinces Bulger, who he has been his friend since they were children,to collaborate with the FBI to bring down the Italian mafia. Johnny Depp is tremendously scary and ice cold in this film and executes an amazing, oscar worthy performance. In the press conference at the Palazzo Casino in Venice, Depp claimed that he tried to show him as a human being, but I must say that his Whitey Bulger is one scary human being and you don’t feel like that you could go for a quick pint with him. Depp’s performance is astoundingly different to the gangster in Blow, George Jung who is a much more flamboyant personality, or to Denzel Washington’s glamorous Frank Lucas in Ridley Scott’s American Gangster.


The film is set in Boston and cinematographer Masanobu Takayanagi (Silver Lining) sets a sober visual tone with some scenes shot in grey Brutalist architecture which underlines the brutality of the movie greatly. It seems to me that there are many different ways to show the 70’s in movies. Takayangi’s preferred colour palette is rather dark and pale, he avoids bright colours and strong sunlight.

23174-Red_Carpet_-_Black_Mass_-_E._Banks_-____la_Biennale_di_Venezia_-_Foto_ASAC__2_Remarkable about this movie is also that every tiny part in the film has been cast with the best actresses and actors that you can find. The list is long: Benedict Cumberbatch, Dakota Johnson, Joel Edgerton, Peter Sarsgaard, Juliette Nicholson, Kevin Bacon and Juno Temple all deliver fantastic performances. The film and also Depp’s performance carries the aura of a thoroughly haunted man who committed a lot of crimes and in the end it leaves you wondering what the point of his existence was. Bulger himself wrote in a letter to some students “My life was wasted” which is very sad but carries an important message: “Don’t waste your life!” One thing is for sure: watching this movie and these amazing performances directed by Scott Cooper is in no way a waste of your precious time.

Review by Barbara Stanzl

Barbara Stanzl

Barbara Stanzl

Photos from Premiere:

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