Given how many films and TV show plots the man inspired, it’s kind of surprising that James Joseph “Whitey” Bulger never has been the subject of a narrative film. That changes with Black Mass, based on the true-crime book and starring an almost unrecognizable Johnny Depp as the Boston gangster-turned-informant-turned-fugitive. The first brutal and slightly terrifying official trailer has been released from captivity, and we have the UK version here.
Set during the 1970s, Black Mass tells the almost too-weird-to-be-true story of how Bulger maintained a criminal empire for decades with the tacit, and sometimes explicit, help of the FBI. Recruited as an informant against the rival Patriarca crime family, Bulger thoroughly corrupted his FBI handler and then his handler’s boss. As the FBI dismantled the Patriarca family, Bulger was able to fill the vacuum, going on to establish himself as the head of organized crime in Boston. His FBI cronies concealed his crimes — including several murders — and prevented him from being indicted on several occasions. When the government finally did issue an indictment in 1994, his FBI handler tipped him off, and Bulger went into hiding. He would remain on the lam for 16 years, finally being nabbed in Santa Monica in 2011.
Bulger, by the way, inspired Jack Nicholson’s Frank Costello in The Departed, as well as episodes of Law & Order, Rizzoli & Isles and the basic premise of the Showtime series Brotherhood starring Jason Clarke and Jason Isaacs.
Black Mass also stars Kevin Bacon, Benedict Cumerbatch, Joel Edgerton, Jesse Plemons and Sienna Miller. Directed by Crazy Heart‘s Scott Cooper from a script by Mark Mallouk and Jez Butterworth, it hits theaters September 18.