Well, I’ve got to hand it to whoever put the trailer together. They did an excellent job at creating suspense and adding all the right elements needed to properly build up a gangster drama. At first, we start with a scene that appears to be a harmless dinner party as James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) is asking his host, the corrupt FBI agent John Morris (David Harbour) about his amazing steak recipe. Upbeat music is playing in the background and the guests are talking and laughing at the table as Bulger presses Morris for the recipe. Morris laughs and finally gives Bulger the recipe, dismaying Bulger.
“I thought it was a family secret?” Bulger asks as the music stops abruptly. He elaborates on his dismay: “You spill the secret family recipe to me today, maybe you spill a little something about me tomorrow?” Morris is speechless and immediately appears to regret ever having the man over for dinner as he responds with a nervous “I was just saying…”
For those of you that may not know (but I’m assuming you do if you’re excited for the film), Whitey Bulger is not just any dinner guest. He is “one of the most notorious gangsters in U.S. history,” and when a notorious gangster presses you for your secret family recipe, apparently you shouldn’t share it with him.
Bulger is quick to use Morris’s response against him: “Just saying gets people sent away,” he menacingly explains, as footage of him conducting business as usual begins to roll. We watch as Bulger carries out his dirty work, forfeiting money, murdering his enemies, and wreaking havoc all over South Boston. We get snippets of the mobsters working with the FBI as informants, and we even get glimpses of Bulger’s brother, Senator William “Billy” Bulger (played by none other than Benedict Cumberbatch).
“Just saying got me a 9 year stretch in Alcatraz. So just saying…” he pauses for effect as the trailer cuts to a scene of him shooting a man dead in a parking lot, “could get you buried real quick.” Morris is a deer in headlights at this point, and isn’t sure how to respond to Bulger’s intimidating comments. A moment of silence goes by before Bulger begins laughing at the fear in Morris’s face, and we realize that Bulger was only joking.
The scene harkens back to the tension in the “You think I’m funny?” scene from Goodfellas, and made me realize that Black Mass has some very big shoes to fill in terms of being a good gangster drama. After all, films like the aforementioned Goodfellas and The Godfather have set the bar very high for those in the genre, but judging by the trailer, there seems to be plenty of hope.
Although Johnny Depp is better known for “wearing” his characters than actually playing them, he seems promising as the South Boston gangster. He’s got the makeup and the accent down to a T, so let’s just hope his portrayal of one of the most dangerous men in America doesn’t end there. The trailer makes it clear that the film is banking on Johnny Depp’s performance, but seems to have sprinkled in A-list actors to further drive up interest in Black Mass. And it’s working — I for one want to hear Cumberbatch’s take on an American accent.
Black Mass will be directed by actor-turned-producer/director Scott Cooper, who also worked on Crazy Heart (which won Jeff Bridges an Academy Award) and Out of the Furnace. The film is based on the book Black Mass: The True Story of an Unholy Alliance Between the FBI and the Irish Mob by Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Niell, which claims to be a true account of Whitey Bulger’s life.
Black Mass will be released in theaters on September 18th, 2015.