Black Mass | DVD review - Johnny Depp's dead-eyed killer blows the viewer away

Black Mass Johnny Depp James 'Whitey' Bulger.jpg
(Image credit: Claire Folger)
(Image credit: Claire Folger)

Nearly unrecognisable beneath swept-back, thinning hair and leathery, reptilian skin, Johnny Depp delivers a soul-chilling study of sociopathic evil in Black Mass, a biopic of notorious Irish-American mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger, who owed his underworld dominance in 1970s and 80s Boston, astonishingly, to a secret deal with the FBI brokered by an ambitious federal agent with childhood ties to his family (Joel Edgerton).

Director Scott Cooper (Crazy Heart, Out of the Furnace) doesn't have the cinematic swagger of Martin Scorsese, but the sight of Bulger bludgeoning his way to power proves queasily riveting.

Getting his tongue round the notoriously difficult South Boston accent, Benedict Cumberbatch is suitably commanding as Bulger’s politician brother Billy (his parallel rise another of the tale’s stranger-than-fiction twists) and there is striking support from Jesse Plemons and Rory Cochrane as two of Bulger's mob underlings and from Dakota Johnson, Julianne Nicholson and Juno Temple as three women unfortunately entangled in one way or another in his career.

It’s Depp’s dead-eyed killer, though, who blows us away.

Certificate 15. Runtime 122 mins. Director Scott Cooper

Black Mass is available on Blu-ray, DVD & Digital HD from 21 March

Blu-ray special features:

    •    The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger

    •    Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger

    •    Black Mass: Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime


DVD special features:

    •    Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger

Jason Best

A film critic for over 25 years, Jason admits the job can occasionally be glamorous – sitting on a film festival jury in Portugal; hanging out with Baz Luhrmann at the Chateau Marmont; chatting with Sigourney Weaver about The Archers – but he mostly spends his time in darkened rooms watching films. He’s also written theatre and opera reviews, two guide books on Rome, and competed in a race for Yachting World, whose great wheeze it was to send a seasick film critic to write about his time on the ocean waves. But Jason is happiest on dry land with a classic screwball comedy or Hitchcock thriller.