When Black Mass was announced around 2014, the project was met with a lot of hype. Not only did the project was being helmed by Scott Cooper, coming from the success of Crazy Heart and Out of the Furnace, but the movie also boasted an impressive cast of actors. Joel Edgerton, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemmons, Dakota Johnson, Kekin Bacon, Juno Temple, and many more, make for a dream cast.
The film was also based on a very successful book, “Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob.” The movie had every single thing to be a successful picture for the studio. Nevertheless, the real secret weapon was Johnny Depp, being the protagonist of the movie and doing one of his legendary make transformations, into the character of James Bulger, a nefarious mobster.
The film is a dark study on the relationship between the justice system, the police forces that try to enforce the laws, and the criminals themselves who try to come up on top no matter what. It is a tale about corruption, and how our systems will never be perfect as long as there are humans running them. It isn’t the best mob picture ever made, but it is quite different and interesting in its own way.
If you have never seen the movie before, beware, the next paragraphs include spoilers.
What Happens to Johnny Depp’s Character In Black Mass?
At the beginning of the film, we meet James Bulger, a mobster that has a lot of influence within South Boston. Bulger is a family man, and someone who leads his own Mafia family. There are some issues, however, as his territory is being threatened by a rival gang. Bulger is little by little being taken out of his own territory, and everything that he has build seems to be on the brink of destruction.
In the middle of this situation, someone familiar arrives in town. A man named John Connolly. John grew up in the same neighborhood as Bulger. Actually, they both grew up together, and were friends until Connolly left town to study. In a twist of fate, Connolly comes back into South Boston as a member of the FBI, and he is looking for Bulger to become an informant. This, of course, doesn’t sit well with Bulger.
However, it is clear that by being an informant for the FBI, Bulger would have a level of protection that no one else in the city has. Bulger accepts, and quickly he manages to exploit his connection to the FBI in order to get away with several crimes. He also helps the FBI to undermine rival gangs, and little by little, the competition is brought down and Bulger sits once again as the king of his territory.
Bulger and Connolly grow closer even more, and it is clear that Connolly is being corrupted by Bulger’s influence. Connolly receives big gifts from the mobster and his overall attitude changes, becoming more arrogant. The FBI grows weary of the relationship between the two and when a couple of FBI agents get killed, the office starts investigating internally. Meanwhile, Bulger’s mother dies, and the mobster become even more violent.
Connolly tries to protect Bulger when the FBI demands his arrest. Everything starts falling apart when Connolly’s involvement in the mafia becomes clear. The last straw comes in the form of a report on the Boston Globe, where the relationship between Bulger and Connolly is exposed. This also exposes the FBI ties with the criminal organization and of course, this doesn’t sit well with the agency. Connolly is arrested.
Bulger leaves Boston, but in an epilogue we are told he was captured and sentenced to two life sentences, while his partner in crime Connolly was sentenced to forty years in prison.
Why Is Black Mass Called Like That?
The origin of the Black Mass title is actually quite interesting. The term has its origins in satanism, as a ritual that serves as a perversion of the catholic mass that often takes place in catholic churches around the world. The Black Mass serves a way to make communion with the devil and to call for its favors. This ritual is often executed in secret.
When related to the movie, the title is just another way of telling the complete story of the movie, where in secret the FBI basically makes a deal with the devil, in this case Bulger himself. Who definitely was not a person that had other interests in mind but his own. The fact that the FBI had ties with the mob was something that should have never come to light, from the FBI’s point of view, of course, so when the secret was revealed, it came with controversy.
The figure of Bulger is essentially a perfect stand in for the devil. He is an agent of evil trying to take as much territory as possible, and uses temptation and corruption to take others under his wing. The worst thing of all is that he was invited to, just like the devil does when a Black Mass is performed.