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Black Mass (Blu-ray Review)

Black-MassKeep your enemies close and don’t trust anyone when “Black Mass” arrives on Blu-ray Combo Pack, DVD and Digital HD. Three-time Oscar® nominee Johnny Depp (“Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street,” the “Pirates of the Caribbean” films) stars as notorious mobster James “Whitey” Bulger in the drama “Black Mass,” directed by Scott Cooper (“Crazy Heart”).  “Black Mass” also stars Joel Edgerton (“The Great Gatsby,” “Zero Dark Thirty”) as FBI Agent John Connolly; Oscar nominee Benedict Cumberbatch (“The Imitation Game”) as Whitey’s brother, powerful State Senator Billy Bulger; Rory Cochrane (“Argo”) as Steve Flemmi, Whitey’s closest partner in crime as FBI Special Agent in Charge Charles McGuire; Jesse Plemons (TV’s “Fargo”) as Whitey’s main henchman, Kevin Weeks; and Kevin Bacon (“Crazy, Stupid, Love.,” TV’s “The Following”).

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Film Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-0Dexter-0Dexter-0

In 1970s South Boston, FBI Agent John Connolly persuades Irish mobster James “Whitey” Bulger to collaborate with the FBI in order to eliminate  a common enemy: the Italian mob. The drama tells the story of this unholy alliance, which spiraled out of control, allowing Whitey to evade law enforcement, consolidate power and become one of the most ruthless and dangerous gangsters in Boston history.

Great cast, promising director, interesting story…dud of a movie?  Somehow that happens here with this tale of Whitey Bulger.  The movie was sold on being some big performance by Johnny Depp, which he’s fine in, but is just a “grimdark” version of the kind of characters he’s been playing for years.  Slap some goofy make-up on and give him a silly voice…wah’lah!  This film promises a lot of suspense, betrayal, intrigue and the like of a big time criminal working with the FBI, yet never feels of a sense of urgency and has a hard time keeping your attention even.  It struggles to hold on to your interest.

I mentioned a great cast, and pretty much everyone is good and some just aren’t there enough.  I would’ve enjoyed more Kevin Bacon and Adam Scott.  Joel Edgerton is a key player, but this isn’t one of his finer moments.  The highlight here is Rory Cochrane, but like I mentioned, not enough of him here.  A lot of these actors feel like they’re in a contest to see who has the most eccentric Boston accent.  Benedict Cumberbatch being one of them and Jesse Plemons with the accent almost looks and feels like he’s some not as handsome brother or cousin to Matt Damon (or maybe the puppet version).

Coming with the bonus material is a documentary about the events that took place in the film, which actually is much more entertaining than this film winds up being.  I didn’t completely hate this movie, but found it to be a pretty big disappointment.  Aside from a storyline with Peter Sarsgaard in the middle of the film, you’re constantly waiting for what you think is building for what eventually is nothing happening.  It doesn’t help that film is pretty much shot and cut in the most standard fashion possible.  Its a movie I wanted to like, but its just too dull to hold any interest.  Not terrible, but a disappointment.

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Video Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  Black Mass comes to Blu-ray with an outstanding, top of the image that would be a disappointment if it was any other way.  The transfer is very sharp and provides strong, window-like detail with textures on surfaces and clothing.  A very strong cold image that very much impresses.

Depth:  Spacing looks quite good in the film, with backgrounds feeling separate and having good definition under appropriate focus.  Movements are clean and cinematic in feel.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and inky.  Shadows look beautiful and provide some really good shadowing and assistance to sharpness and detail.  No crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Well, the blue on Johnny Depp’s eyes really sticks out.  Other colors are pretty deep, bold but holding a natural appearance.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are a bit colder and stay consistent throughout the film’s duration.  Facial details are terrific from any distance when making out scars, stubble, wrinkles, lip texture and make-up among many other details.

Noise/Artifacts:  Clean

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Audio Format(s): English 5.1 DTS-HD MA, English Descriptive Audio, French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese

Dynamics:  As expected, this movie sounds quite ideal with its 5.1 mix.  While not doing too much in terms of surround (The film doesn’t demand much, its mostly a talking movie), what it has at the forefront is nicely mixed, balanced and well rounded.  It all culminates in an effective track.

Low Frequency Extension:  Doors closing, engines humming, guns blasting and punching get some good booming from the subwoofer.

Surround Sound Presentation:  There isn’t a whole lot of encompassing sounds throughout the rear, its mainly ambiance.  The front speakers project the motions and actions of the onscreen events with accuracy in placement and volume.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is pure, crisp and clear with every diction audible.

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Extras Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0

Black Mass comes with a DVD copy and UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Black Mass: Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime (HD, 23:00) – Cast and crew recollect on shooting the film on locations it actually took place and the true history of the events and characters.

Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger (HD, 12:24) – This one talks about Depp finding the character and putting together the make-up and look of Whitey Bulger.

The Manhunt For Whitey Bulger (HD, 1:01:38) – A nice little documentary that that is far more exciting than the film itself.

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Summary Dex-1Dex-1Dex-1Dexter-_5Dexter-0

Well, I guess I’m not so sad after all that I missed this one in the theater.  In all honesty, I found myself rather bored with the film.  Performances are fine, but its pretty much a pedestrian job in directing and I felt like nothing was happening much of the time.  Its a shame, too, because I really did like Out of the Furnace.  Fairing better is the audio and video presentations, as they are top notch.  The bonus material ranges from a couple generic featurettes to a rather sweet documentary (which is better than the movie).  The highest recommend I could give is to rent it for those curious.

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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