The problem of Black Mass lays in authoriality, one of those you can find very rarely in american cinema, which is used to hide -often wonderfully- in genre and commercial necessities. Because Scott Cooper‘s new work, as we’ve already seen in Out of the Furnace, does not want to be a genre movie, nor look alike other movies, but it seems as if it doesn’t know what to be either.
The true story of Jimmy Bulger could have been a great Scorsese-style movie (the period and the theme are the same, a ’70s, ’80s, ’90s story about a cruel mafioso in secret agreements with FBI); or it could have been a bush league story filled with tricks and interferences. It could have been a movie full of unsuspected humanity, once seen the interpersonal relationships of the film, or a comedy (it’s incredibly similar to American Hustle). Cooper instead creates a grey parable. He wants to give hints, instead of telling a complete story, but nothing comes out of it.
During the movie, we get to know Bulger’s life, the way he managed the power and his relationship with John Connolly, a childhood friend who has become FBI agent, the way in which they associate. The role played by Johnny Depp (who seems not to have the will to do it!), is the one of a bad mafioso, who’s never scared, even when the movie could have required it, he is ridiculous, but he’s never a spoof, a man that everyone is afraid of, but we don’t know why, since his colorless personality. You have the feeling that the movie needs a crucial choice because Cooper’s detached and impartial tone is increasingly less effective. It all suggests that the author would like to create a distance, but what emerges is only an authorial sloth. Black Mass tells a story that has itself a weak personality that soon bores.
The audience’s prerogative is to have some “genre” expectations (actually to desire a repetition of those elements that they already love in a certainkind of movie) and authors’ aim should be to floor, to discover new paths and to use a style which is able to give sense to those movie banalities we’re all used to know. But in Black Mass there’s not the will to satisfy the audience nor to look for a personal path. Cooper, who’s not able to create a single moment, image or dialogue which can leave a mark on the story, realizes the dullest among the formally correct movies ever.
By Gabriele Niola
Translation by Bianca Baroni
Photos: Alessio Costantino