Scott Cooper’s “Black Mass” lands in theatres this weekend, and it’s already garnered a mostly positive response from those who’ve seen it (here’s our mixed review). Those who’ve found themselves enjoying the film are calling it a return to form for its star Johnny Depp, who has spent the last few years or so buried beneath mountains of garish make-up and peacocking about in unfortunate vanity projects like this year’s colossally awful “Mortdecai.” One thing that everyone seems to agree on, however, is that “Black Mass” is an old-fashioned gangster flick that sticks to tried-and-true narrative methods, for better or for worse. It looks to be a sturdy, well-made, ultimately familiar gumbo of snarling bad guys, colorful threats, and enough thick Bahston accents for the whole of Fenway Park.
One director who more or less knows this territory — not exactly Boston, per se, but rather hard men and the hard, often dirty work they are assigned to do — is William Friedkin. The 80-year-old veteran filmmaker has previously explored this thematic terrain in his classic drug thriller “The French Connection,” his underappreciated “Sorcerer,” and his most recent effort, the batshit-crazy cowboy noir “Killer Joe.” And now, in an illuminating new episode of Vice Talks Film, Friedkin sits down with Scott Cooper to discuss what he calls younger director’s “powerful” new picture.
The articulate and clearly passionate Cooper discusses the intensive research that went into the project — detailing in particular Bulger’s early rise on the mean streets of South Boston, as well as his brother Billy (who, in a perverse twist of fate, happened to be a Massachusetts state senator), and also his relationship to FBI agent John Connolly (played in the film by Aussie Joel Edgerton), with whom he grew up. The two also discuss the transformative performance of Cooper’s leading actor and what exactly went into the process of turning Depp, one of the world’s most handsome men, into the bald, ghastly, snaggle-toothed Bulger. Friedkin also reveals, in an interesting bit of trivia, that he even knew the real-life John Connolly for a brief period of time and acted as a character witness for the man way back when. The talk itself an excellent primer for anyone who is juiced to see “Black Mass,” and there are even some snippets of previously unreleased footage to whet the appetite for the mob movie diehards.
Watch below. “Black Mass” hits theatres this Friday, September 18th.