In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the true story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become ...more
In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to collaborate with the FBI and eliminate a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the true story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power, and become one of the most ruthless and powerful gangsters in Boston history. less
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Scott Cooper, the director of the movie gave us Crazy Heart and Jeff Bridges his Oscar. He brings a compelling character here for Johnny Depp, of Jimmy Bulger, one of the most notorious crimelords in Boston History. It starts with Bulger's ambitions in South Boston as he is pitted against the Angliu mafia family. He draws a deal which he calls, 'an alliance' with the FBI, a business opportunity, because he was strictly against ratting or informing. Like he explains to his closest aide Stevie, there is informing and then there is informing.
John Connolly, an FBI superstar arrives at Boston where he grew up idolizing Bulger. He gives Bulger the offer and Bulger plays the FBI to take his biggest opponent out. Connolly gets drawn into the web of crime and before he knows it, he is a corrupt cop himself, protecting Bulger's interests and closing cases against the latter allowing him to grow ruthlessly into something bigger and worser.
The underlying theme of the movie is Connolly's loyalty to Bulger, not to his job but to Bulger for that one incident in childhood where Bulger saves him. It is incredible how Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch), Jimmy's brother manages to stay clean but still pays a price eventually. Having said that, Cumberbatch besides his interesting accent, is totally wasted in that small role which makes you wonder why he even accepted it. Joel Edgerton as Connolly isn't at his best. At times, his cocky-corrupt-cop looks really naive making you wonder how he got away with what he got away for so long. Johnny Depp is the real star of the movie, chillingly menacing with his eyebrows, bald head and blue eyes.
There is some effort to explore his nicer side when he lets his mom win at cards or when he loses his son and is angsty with his wife who then leaves him. There are character establishing sequences like Jimmy strictly warning his friend not to put his fingers in the common bowl of peanuts, very commanding and assertive. He teaches his son it is okay to punch but not okay to punch in public.
Beyond that he is a monster who doesn't like anyone who could risk his empire to be alive. Eventually, Bulger playing FBI and using them while acting like a criminal informant, is found out and his closest aides, except Connolly testify against him. While the story has all the makings of a powerful gangster movie, Cooper chooses to take a deeper look at the characters instead of their actions. There are some murders but mostly, those murders don't give you a chill especially if you have watched plenty of gangster movies. The movie doesn't leave you with classic lines like The Departed did neither does it do a thorough job on the characters. So you are left in a middle ground where neither there is action nor there is a thorough exploratioon of characters. Jimmy's relation with his closest and loyal pal, Stevie for example has events like the one where Jimmy kills the latter's love interest to protect their own interests, but beyond that Stevie is a quiet man and Jimmy is a narcissist at best. You walk away from the movie hall missing out on the satisfaction of watching a good crime drama or an action oriented gangster film. Instead you get a cold 1970s-80s typical documentary style fact-based setting that although honest misses out on the finer points that had to be embellished and that made movies like Godfather the masterpieces that they were. Masanobu's camera work and the makeup are off-putting at times too, leaving a bleak picture which although the intention never really lets you relate or be engrossed in the movie.