Here was Johnny Depp’s chance to kill off his ‘every role is Jack Sparrow’ label, well that’s what this film said to me. Overall I have to say, not being a big fan of Mr Depp’s acting style, he managed it.
The big trouble with this film is that it is something we have seen before, many times. A further problem is we have seen this so many times done better too.
The film is certainly disjointed, right from the beginning we’re introduced to Kevin Weeks who through a fight and then a beating gets into Whitey’s gang, ‘just like that’, so we’re going to see the story of Whitey Bulger from one of Whitey’s strong-arm lieutenants, err no he sort of drifts off after this, drifts back in again, but hardly does a voice over again. Perhaps we’ll see it from Whitey’s point of view, why he worked like he did, we certainly see set up scenes showing his strong family ties and he certainly reiterates how he values loyalty above all, although the real Bulger, like many politicians valued it until it didn’t suit him.
The film continues disjointedly like this throughout the running time. Sometimes it comes up as a part of interviewing with some Whitey’s gang, sometimes it is general film story-telling. For instance, we get interviews with Matt Berry look-a-like Rory Cochrane, as the delightful Stephen Flemmi and then back to story narrative, but Flemmi saying Whitey Bulger was ‘purely criminal’ gives us no clue as to what motivated the man or how he operated. If you watched the film you should have some idea.
Joel Edgerton, rapidly becoming one of my favourite actors, gives the best bang for bucks, giving his character a more complex feel and a strange warped motivation and he genuinely portrays a man slowly losing control of situation in which his loyalties are stretched thin. '
Benedict Cumberbatch is fine as Whitey’s politico brother Billy but it has to be asked why he was cast. It just seems a bit flashy to me. Also the story gives no real view on his involvement in Whitey’s empire, did he cover him, was he fully aware of the murders and extortion? Well we won’t know. In fact, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) was complicit in the covering up of Bulger’s crimes but was it blind ‘Southie’ loyalty or did he truly believe he could take down the mafia and the price was a local boy in charge of crime? How many others were in on the conspiracy, if indeed it was a truly organised one? How did one man get away with such a cover-up, it seems far-fetched. Who knows? We never really do that’s for sure.
Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott are amongst a great supporting cast of venerable actors who seem to pop up early in the film and then drift off only to return again near the end. All the more for making room for scenes of Whitey killing and hurting people and there is the problem with the film in a nutshell. A great cast but too much trying to make the film a South Boston Good Fellas instead of making it a Whitely Bulger biopic.
I finished watching the film not having learned anymore about Whitey and his evil inner sanctum other than they didn’t like rats, Whitey was protected by the FBI and when the chance came his lieutenants ratted on him.
There is a great story to be told about one of the nastiest, vilest, organised criminals in US history but I feel the makers, whilst creating a good gangster ‘B’ movie, missed out because they wanted to make a gangster masterpiece.
“Whitey did in Captain Jack but we don’t know why.”