What You Need To Know:
BLACK MASS doesn’t really have a positive protagonist, or a real antagonist, for the evil gangster and the FBI agent who are the focus of the story. However, the acting and filming are first-rate. The whole movie is essentially a morality tale showing, among other things, that the ends doesn’t justify the means. However, BLACK MASS also contains nearly constant foul language (including many, many “f” words) and extreme, somewhat bloody, often disturbing violence. So, media-wise viewers may want to avoid seeing BLACK MASS.
(B, CC, PaPa, LLL, VVV, S, AA, DD, MM) Light moral worldview about the evils of a renowned, real-life gangster, with some overt positive Christian content in two scenes, including a Christian funeral with a Holy Trinity blessing, with very strong immoral behavior that’s rebuked; at least 242 obscenities (mostly “f” words), 12 strong profanities, and two light profanities; very strong, often bloody and disturbing violence includes pointblank headshot and other assassinations/executions, bloody fighting, men have clearly been beaten around the face, villain protagonist begins to strangle young woman and camera pans to his cohort’s face as he completes the strangulation, threats of violence, mother says she wants to “pull the plug” on her “brain dead” young child, man kicks chair and overturns table; crude reference to oral sex between man and his stepdaughter, who’s been arrested for prostitution; alcohol and brief drunkenness; smoking, cocaine use in one scene and talk about gangster selling drugs and introducing drugs to local schoolchildren; and, lots of gangster behavior, corruption, racketeering mentioned but rebuked.
BLACK MASS is the unfortunate title of a movie about murderous Boston gangster Jimmy “Whitey” Bolger, played by Johnny Depp, who was on the FBI’s Most Wanted List for 16 years before being captured in 2011. For a long period of time, the FBI ignored Bolger’s crimes because he informed to them against his Mafia rivals, who were a bigger government target. Eventually, his crimes catch up to him, and he flees Boston to disappear.
The movie begins with a childhood friend of Bolger’s, FBI Agent John Chandler, forging a deal between Bolger and the FBI for Bolger to inform on his Mafia rivals, a bigger target. Meanwhile, the FBI agrees to look the other way on Bolger’s crimes, which were deemed lesser. Sadly, however, by looking the other way, Bolger’s crimes escalate to more outrageous murders and even dealing drugs to schoolchildren. After the Mafia leadership is decimated, Bolger becomes an even bigger crime lord, but still the FBI does nothing. Part of the problem is that Bolger’s brother, Billy, is one of the state’s most powerful politicians.
Eventually, a new U.S. prosecutor is appointed for the area, and he begins to ask questions about Jimmy Bolger. He tries to move against Jimmy, but the powers-that-be only approve action against the corrupt FBI agent helping Jimmy.
Scott Cooper (CRAZY HEART and OUT OF THE FURNACE) directs BLACK MASS from a screenplay by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth (EDGE OF TOMORROW). The title is unfortunate because it not only refers to the corruption that Bolger, his brother and their friend represented in Boston, Mass., but also to the Irish Catholic background in South Boston, the section where these men lived and originated. At one point, there’s a brief scene at a Catholic funeral for Jimmy and Billy’s mother. At another point, Jimmy sits quietly in the same church as he ponders his future when the FBI finally decides to take action against his FBI friend. That scene leads to Jimmy’s decision to go on the lam.
Because BLACK MASS focuses so much on the bad guy and his criminal behavior, there’s no real conflict in the movie, and no positive protagonist/antagonist to identify with while watching the movie. The bad guy clearly loves his elderly mother and young boy, so when they die from serious illnesses, he gets worse and worse in his wickedness.
That said, the acting and filming in BLACK MASS are first rate. Johnny Depp gives a chilling performance as Jimmy Bolger. He even tells his cute little boy that, as long as no one sees you do something bad, like hitting another boy, then it didn’t happen! Thus, the whole movie is essentially a morality tale showing, among other things, that the ends does not justify the means. Even so, some of Jimmy’s actions may seem cool to impressionable or wicked people. BLACK MASS also contains nearly constant foul language (including many, many “f” words) and extreme, somewhat bloody and often disturbing violence (see our CONTENT section). The violence seems less excessive (sometimes the camera looks away) than the foul language. However, media-wise viewers will see this content as excessive.