First Hit: Very disappointing film as there is little substance about Whitey’s motivation to be the criminal he was.
I was looking forward to seeing this film, because I thought I’d learn something about James “Whitey” Bulger, the man who was on the FBI’s 10 most wanted lists for years.
I learned very little except he, as Johnny Depp played him, had a brother named Billy (Benedict Cumberbatch) that was a State Senator, his childhood friend named John Connolly (Joel Edgerton) was an FBI agent, and that he became an FBI informant to further his criminal career. But there was nothing about what drove Whitey to his life of crime and even more, nothing around the deeper motivation for his killing and crime spree.
The side story about Connolly was mediocre and, in this film, it was obvious his association with Whitey was ill-used and inappropriate. It was bad script-writing, poor direction, poor acting and/or a combination of any of these resulting in the audience being un-engaged while the payoff never arrived.
Depp had a great look for the film, and it appears he did what the script and director called for, but there wasn’t enough there to make it interesting. Cumberbatch was excellent in his small role and his meetings with Connolly were perfectly executed. Edgerton was OK, and it issue seemed to be the way the script was written and how the director wanted him to be emphatic about how Whitey was helping the FBI. It just didn’t see it working as a real story. Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth wrote the script that lacked backstory as to why Whitey took up a life of crime while his brother became a State Senator. Scott Cooper didn’t seem to see how the way he filmed this story lacked interest. The subject is a fascinating one, but it was all lost within intense vignettes.
Overall: This film lacked depth and interest.