All is forgiven for Mortdecai, Johnny. All is forgiven.
I’d announce SPOILERS though all this stuff actually happened! BQB here with a review of Black Mass.
“If nobody sees it, then it didn’t happen.”
So goes the advice of infamous Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to his young son after he got in trouble for punching another kid at school. It’s a line delivered so eerily that it sets the whole tone of the movie.
It gives the viewer insight into just the kind of guy Whitey is. Most parents would tell their kid not to punch anyone. Whitey tells his to just make sure no one’s looking before he punches someone the next time.
Step aside Tony Soprano, as this true crime gangster flick shows Whitey as one cold, calculating sociopathic serial killer, leaving a trail of bodies in his wake during his tenure as the boss of an organized crime family known as the Winter Hill Gang in South Boston from the 1970s to the 1990’s.
I was a fan of The Sopranos and the ongoing theme of that show was that Tony often felt bad about his crimes. Of course, that didn’t stop him from being a murderer, but after the dirty deed, he’d feel bad, overeat, not sleep and walk around in his bathrobe and get so depressed that he’d need to go spill his guts to his confidant/ shrink Dr. Melfi.
Whitey, on the other hand – SPOILER – is able to strangle a hooker then take a nap and have dinner afterwards.
In one of the saddest turn of events in modern law enforcement history, FBI agent John Connolly struck a deal to use Bulger as an informant, but as we see in the movie, John becomes less concerned about justice and more about helping Whitey, his childhood friend, not to mention getting some extra gifts on the side.
Meanwhile, Whitey plays the FBI like a fiddle. He gives them info needed to take down a rival Italian crime family moving in on his turf, but after that, pretty much feeds them bupkis.
If this sounds familiar, you might recall 2006’s The Departed, which was somewhat based on Whitey’s reign of terror.
I’ve always felt The Departed was one of the best gangster flicks I’ve ever seen and this one does meet it.
Johnny Depp solidifies his reputation as an actor who can become anyone. He plays the ruthless yet somewhat quiet Whitey to a T and is barely recognizable on screen.
To complicate matters, Whitey’s brother was William Bulger, President of the Massachusetts Senate.
Benedict Cumberbatch plays the South Boston politician well, delivering a powerful speech about how he’ll drive crime out of South Boston just as St. Patrick drove the Romans and British out of Ireland.
Ironic, given who his brother was.
What did William know about his brother, when, and what was his involvement? Those are questions left on the table, though the film takes the standpoint that Billy basically suffered from being tied to a degenerate brother.
Can’t pick your family I guess.
Joel Edgerton turns in an excellent performance as Connolly, the fast talking Fed who always has a comeback ready to explain to his boss (played by Kevin Bacon) as to why Whitey’s being allowed to jerk the FBI around for his own personal gain.
Jesse Plemons (aka Creepy Todd from Breaking Bad) plays another creep, Whitey’s associate Kevin Weeks. Poor Jesse’s stuck playing creeps I guess.
Adam Scott (known for comedic roles such as his part as Leslie Knope’s husband, Ben Wyatt on Parks and Rec) makes his first notable foray into drama as a Fed who’s suspicious of Connolly.
Overall, it’s a solid cast. I could go into more detail, but I’d end up giving the rest of the story away.
Did Whitey win? If you’re a news watcher, you know he went on the lam in the 1990’s after being tipped off by Connolly to an impending arrest, only to be caught in Santa Monica in 2011.
You might say justice was finally found. Then again, Whitey was in his 80’s when he was nabbed so, he did get to live out his retirement years.
This is one of the first major Oscar contenders of the year and cements Depp as one of the greatest actors of our time.
If he takes home a gold statue for this, he will have earned it.