Review: Black Mass – Where are all the women?
PinkNews reviews Johnny Depp’s latest film, in which he plays notorious Boston gangster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger.
In 1980s Boston, women lived in kitchens. When they were seen outside of kitchens, they were buying or carrying food… back to their kitchens.
From the time they married to the day they died, their home was the kitchen. When they stood up for themselves (and it didn’t happen often), it was in their kitchens. “This is my kitchen!” they would yell.
Or so Black Mass would lead us to believe. In attempting to captivate his audiences with real-life mobster James ‘Whitey’ Bulger’s violent life story, Director Scott Cooper made Boston so bleak and devoid of any happiness, the few female characters in the film had to be confined to the kitchen.
This left the streets of 1980s South Boston entirely in the hands of the good ol’ boys. And as testosterone ran amok (because it always did during these times, just watch Mad Men), people had their heads blown up. A lot of people.
Johnny Depp plays South Boston’s last notorious mafia leader, Whitey. As the leader of the Irish Winter Hill Gang looking to expand its criminal reach, he cannot deny an offer to work with the FBI to help the authorities take down Boston’s Italian mafia in return for immunity.
Of course, he doesn’t easily accept the offer. Part of the reason why he does is because the offer comes from his childhood friend and fellow “Southie,” John Connolly (played by Joel Edgerton).
And so, two boys go from playing cops and robbers in the playground to doing it in real life with real guns, blurring the lines between crime and justice. What’s the worst that could happen?
The film is engrossing and intoxicating; with fast-paced scenes and well-written dialogue that makes us, at least at first, like Whitey.
It is not until the story unfolds, however, that we realise that we have been stupefied by the violence of one man, and that the film fails to provide insight into the conditions that created him or comment on the importance of justice.
Depp’s performance is almost perfect, but his character is flawed in that he lacks multidimensionality. The few times that we are able to glean a part of him besides his mobster ways are when he is with women.
When he brings flowers to his son’s mom (while she’s in her kitchen), we see that he can be sentimental. When he helps an old lady who saw him grow up with her groceries (on her way to her kitchen), we remember that he was once a child. When we see him playing gin with his mom (in her kitchen), we are able to see a passive side of him.
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Of course, it is also when he is with women that we get to see the most grotesque side of his personality. Perhaps, if Whitey had indulged the positive, healthy parts of his self that seemingly only women could engender, he would have turned out a bit differently, and Boston’s streets would not have claimed the lives of so many men.
Or, put another way, perhaps if women were allowed to leave their kitchens, they may have helped the boys learn how to play more nicely with each other.
At the very least, there would have been a bit more justice.
Our recommendation: Watch it for Depp’s performance and for the plot’s smooth sequencing and ability to engross you. Skip it if you cannot stand senseless violence. You will hate the film every 30 seconds.