Black Mass

This somber fact-based crime drama, adapted from the book by Dick Lehr and Gerard O'Neill, chronicles the rise and fall of notorious Boston kingpin James "Whitey" Bulger (an intense Johnny Depp). Motivated by a misguided sense of ethnic and neighborhood loyalty, a childhood acquaintance-turned-FBI agent (Joel Edgerton) engineers an unlikely alliance between the bureau and the Irish-American gangster, implicitly giving Bulger free rein to expand his underworld empire in exchange for information about his rivals in the Italian-American mafia. As this corrupt bargain spirals out of control, it threatens to bring down not only its creator but his superior (Kevin Bacon), his closest coworker (David Harbour) and Bulger's wily brother (Benedict Cumberbatch), a powerful Massachusetts state senator, as well. Though the bloodletting in director Scott Cooper's cautionary tale - with its resounding admonition against using illicit means to achieve valid ends - is often harrowing, it's generally surrounded with an appropriate sense of dread. Yet, as the story progresses, a note of exploitative excess does creep in, so that even those few moviegoers for whom it can be considered tolerable based on its underlying values may ultimately judge the film offensive.

Watch out for: Frequent brutal violence with considerable gore, mature themes, including prostitution, about a dozen uses of profanity, pervasive rough and crude language.

Rated: L, limited adult audience, films whose problematic content many adults would find troubling; MPAA: R, restricted. Under 17 requires accompanying parent or adult guardian.

© Arlington Catholic Herald 2015