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The true story of one of America's most violent and infamous gangsters, Whitey Bulger. Johnny Depp stars as Bulger, who was the brother of a state senator and was eventually convinced to wear a wire for the FBI to bring down the Italian mafia in Boston after they invaded his territory. Scott Cooper directs, with Mark Mallouk penning the screenplay based on Dick Lehr and Gerald O'Neill's 2001 best-seller Black Mass: The True Story of An Unholy Alliance Between The FBI and The Irish Mob. Daniel Gelb, Rovi


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Oct 30, 2018

James "Whitey" Bulger

Directed by John Cooper, "Black Mass" tells the story of Boston gangster James "Whitey" Bulger and his unlikely deal with the FBI. The film is largely set in south Boston in the 1970s and 1980s. Bulger, who had spent years in Alcatraz, was already a large-scale hoodlum on Boston's south side where he had grown up. He makes an arrangement with a boyhood friend who had apparently taken a straight path in life working for the FBI. Bulger agrees to provide information on Mafia operations in north Boston. The FBI reduces the Mafia's presence but at the terrible price of increasing Bulger's power. The FBI agent may have been well intentioned at first, but he is drawn into Bulger's moral sphere and ultimately receives a long prison term.

Johnny Depp offers a chillingly harsh, realistic portrayal of a cold-blooded mobster and killer. The movie follows Bulger through a long string of criminal activity and murders, several of which he commits with his own hands. The film shows Bulger's relationship with his henchmen and the increasing deterioration of the arrangement with the FBI. Bulger fled Boston to avoid capture and remained on the loose for more than a decade. before being found in California, extradited to Boston, and, in his 80s, sentence to two consecutive life sentences.

The movie is gripping in its portrayal of the Boston streets and in Depp's portrayal of Bulger. I have seen contrasting reviews of the film. The Washington D.C. pager praises the film for not glamorizing or making a hero of Bulger in any way, but it finds the film pointless. A review in a Boston newspaper finds the movie overly sympathetic to Bulger and his many crimes. I found the film absorbing and convincing. Even assuming that Bulger was worse than he is portrayed, the film shows a dark, violent criminal character and milieu. The film taught me about a man and a criminal environment that I had known little about.

Bulger was found dead in Federal prison, age 89, on October 29, 2018.

Robin Friedman

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