A decidedly drab and unglamorous but still magnetic Johnny Depp appears as South Boston gangster James “Whitey” Bulger in Black Mass, a true crime film from Scott Cooper, the director of the excellent Out of the Furnace. As much as it constitutes a crime saga, however, Black Mass is also a cautionary study of ethnonationalism. The film’s handling of the material is mostly sober, but veers dangerously close to the glorification of violence in more than one sequence – with, for instance, dance floor booty intercut with the discovery of a body in the trunk of a car. Depp maintains a controlled burn throughout, and the other players – Joel Edgerton, Rory Cochrane, and Dakota Johnson among them – are also commendably strong. Definitely worthwhile for crime film fans.
4.5 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Black Mass is:
6. Pro-miscegenation. Joel Edgerton enjoys a lewd dance with a black woman.
5. Anti-Christian, but not as vociferously so as one might be led to expect by the film’s title and the promotional trailer. Christian paraphernalia loses its meaning in the context of remorseless murderer Bulger’s participation in empty rituals.
4. Anti-drug. Aspirin doses debilitate Bulger’s son (Luke Ryan) with Reye’s Syndrome, which leaves him braindead. Bulger, while heartbroken by this, shows no concern for the neighborhood kids who buy his drugs. Learning that Bulger participated in government LSD experiments, the viewer is left to speculate that this might have exacerbated his madness and criminal inclinations.
3. Euthanasist. Bulger’s wife (Johnson) prefers to take their son off life support rather than see him continue as a vegetable. “He’s never gonna be our little boy again, ever. […] He’s braindead. He’s on life support. He can’t move, and I don’t want him like that. I can’t have my little boy be like that. I’ll pull the plug myself. I will.” Clashing with the mother’s reasonable assessment of the situation is Bulger’s irrational anger as he curses his wife, kicks over a chair, and knocks a table on its side, with the heavy irony here being that a gangster and murderer, of all people, has become the advocate for the sanctity of human life.
2. State-skeptical. Government is only as worthy as the men who fill the responsible posts. The Winter Hill Gang bribes “local street cops, feds, whatever” in exchange for the cooperation of authorities.
1. Anti-white. Black Mass opens with an interrogation conducted by a federal agent resembling Eric Holder. James “Whitey” Bulger’s nickname is highly significant, as well, as is brought to the fore in a brief scene in which a black man tells him, “This ain’t your neighborhood, Whitey,” and receives a brutal beating in reply. Bulger is an Irish nationalist determined to retake territory from Boston’s “oppressor” Italians, and he and his gang have nothing but contempt for an Irish-American “turncoat motherfucker” like Officer Flynn (David Conley), who works for the other side. Bulger, as his empire grows with the help of childhood acquaintance and FBI investigator John Connolly (Edgerton), who sees to it that the Bureau overlooks his activities, even assists the IRA with shipments of arms. “What is written on a piece of paper [i.e., law] is less important than blood,” Connolly excuses his actions.
“The only time he ever seemed happy was when he was talking about the IRA,” one of Bulger’s associates remembers – the implication being that European ethnic exclusiveness holds a special attraction for gloomy people with unsatisfying lives. The name of the boat, the “Valhalla”, used to transport the weapons, carries associations with Nordicism and Nazism, and that Black Mass should be largely concerned with discrediting ethnonationalism is hardly surprising when Hollywood Zionist sleazoid Brett Ratner’s name shows up in the end credits as an executive producer. Ethnic solidarity is framed as a hollow ideology providing protection for white crime and terrorism. Bulger’s “code of honor”, furthermore, does not prevent him from introducing drugs into his own neighborhood. A Jewish actor, Corey Stoll, plays the upstanding FBI investigator who finally brings “Whitey” Bulger to justice.
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