Black Mass Cover

Distributor: Warner Brothers

 Release Date: February 16, 2016

 Region: Region A

Length: 123 min

Video: 1080P (MPEG-4 AVC)

Main Audio: 5.1 English DTS-HD Master Audio (48 kHz – 24-bit)

Alternate Audio:  

5.1 English Dolby Digital (640 kbps) – For the visually impaired.

5.1 Spanish Dolby Digital (640 kbps)

5.1 French (Canadian) Dolby Digital

5.1 Portuguese Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English SDH, Spanish, French, Portuguese

Ratio: 2.40:1

Notes: This title is also available in a DVD only edition.

“I always saw it as this black, cancerous mass in the city of Boston, infecting the justice system, the FBI, and certainly the community of South Boston. I guess if you go to a doctor, that’s the last thing you want to hear, this black mass that could be growing, that was my interpretation. It was nothing to do with Satanic rituals, or even the Catholic faith, it was more about that.” –Scott Cooper (Empire Interview, December 03, 2015)

Exposing the biggest scandal in FBI history, Black Mass tells of the unholy alliance between ruthless mobster James “Whitey” Bulger (Johnny Depp) and childhood friend-turned-FBI agent, John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). The bond, forged growing up on the streets of South Boston, would test the limits of loyalty in a town that answers to its own, unwritten code. Blinded by ambition, Connolly convinces Bulger to inform on their common enemy, the Italian Mafia. The deal allows Bulger to expand his criminal empire with complete impunity, threatening to destroy both men, their families, and the very city that made them. Based on true events, the film features an ensemble cast that includes including Benedict Cumberbatch, Jesse Plemons, Kevin Bacon, Julianne Nicholson, Peter Sarsgaard, Rory Cochrane, Dakota Johnson, and Corey Stoll.

The film is admirably directed by Scott Cooper, but the show really belongs to Johnny Depp and Joel Edgerton. It is ridiculous to think that the film didn’t earn Depp an Oscar nomination since this performance beats his three nominated performances (Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, Finding Neverland, the Pirates of the Caribbean) all to pieces. One imagines that his subtle yet brooding portrayal of Whitey Bulger was overlooked because it lacks the ham-handed obviousness of at least two of these three performances.

It also seems unfortunate that the film didn’t receive any recognition in the Best Makeup and Hairstyling category. This is all the more ridiculous in light of the fact that there were only three nominees in the category this year. It forces one to wonder just what political factors were responsible for this snub.

Black Mass is a slow burn that earns a recommendation on the strength of its performances. The film doesn’t really bring anything new to the table, but it is a fairly effective film that fans of the genre should enjoy a great deal.

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The Presentation:

3.5 of 5 Stars

Warner Brothers protects the discs in a standard Blu-ray case with film related artwork, and a slip sleeve with the same artwork protects the case.

My only complaint is that it is easy to damage the artwork when studios use these rather flimsy “recycled” plastic cases. It is good that they are being environmentally responsible, but this is a major design flaw. The safety of the disc should be priority one, and there is no reason why they can’t use recycled plastic and make a solid case. Luckily, the slip sleeve gives the disc and artwork a bit of added protection.

The disc’s menu features the iconic image of Depp as Bulger. It is an attractive and easy to navigate menu.

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Picture Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

This is an excellent transfer of Masanobu Takayanagi’s celluloid cinematography. The film’s grain pattern is nearly invisible and every sharp detail shines through without any digital anomalies to distract the viewer. The film’s muted color palette seems to be accurately rendered here as well. One wonders how fabulous the transfer would have looked if they had used less compression. 23.90 Mbps is rather heavily compressed or a Blu-ray release, and it is amazing that the film looks as good as it does here.

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Sound Quality:

4 of 5 Stars

The film’s sound design isn’t particularly dynamic, but this transfer seems to be a faithful rendering of the filmmaker’s intentions. The dialogue is consistently clear (if you can navigate your way through the Boston accents), and the score is given plenty of room to breathe. There is nothing here to complain about.

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Special Features:

4 of 5 Stars

The Manhunt for Whitey Bulger – (1080p) – (1:01:38)

The best and most substantial supplement is this documentary about the real-life manhunt for Whitey Bulger. It is really quite a substantial addition to this disc, and is extremely engaging. It might be as entertaining as the film that it supports, and this is extremely rare (especially in recent years). Viewers that enjoy true crime documentaries will be especially interested in checking this out!

Black Mass: Deepest Cover, Darkest Crime – (1080p) – (23:00)

While this short documentary is far from comprehensive, it certainly rises above the EPK emptiness of most of the “making of” featurettes. The interviewees really don’t go into a lot of detail about the production, but the story is discussed and commented upon in a more interesting fashion than is usual (even is certain moments feel like a commercial for the film).

Johnny Depp: Becoming Whitey Bulger – (1080p) – (12:24)

This is a brief look at Johnny Depp’s transformation into Whitey Bulger. It is mostly made up of the typical EPK interview material, but it contains some genuinely interesting nuggets of information.

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Final Words:

Black Mass isn’t a perfect film, but it contains solid performances across the board, and Depp’s performance alone is enough to recommend a rental. Die-hard Depp fans will probably want to go a step further and purchase the Blu-ray.

Review by: Devon Powell

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