The line between law and larceny has always been fuzzy in America, but that doesn’t mean we need another rote crime saga about how cops and criminals are flipsides of the same corrupt coin. This is a lesson Scott Cooper could have learned before making Black Mass, a blunt and tacky gangster film that offers absolutely nothing new in the way of thematic insight or visceral excitement. As the credits and promotional materials proudly state, the movie is “based on a true story”: that of James “Whitey” Bulger, a notorious South Boston kingpin who partnered with the FBI to take down the Italian mafia, only to exploit those connections to expand his crime empire throughout the city. Despite its real-world origins, though, Black Mass can only come off as forced and generic, developing a bloodsoaked storyline familiar to anyone who’s seen Goodfellas or American Gangster (or Prince of the City or The Godfather or Serpico or pretty much any crime picture you can think of).
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