Black Mass

Whitey Bulger Movie

Is it possible for a documentary to be too close to its subject? I don’t mean to the degree that a documentarian gets lost in their subject, or loses some simplistic ideal of journalistic objectivity. I mean, are there some subjects for which a documentary has been made too soon after the events depicted for the film to show strong perspective or insight on its subject? That would seem to be the case with Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger, Joe Berlinger’s portrait of last year’s highly publicized trial over Boston’s most notorious living criminal. Here Berlinger has three fascinating topics at play – the history of organized crime in Boston, the possibility of systemic corruption in the FBI’s relationship to said organized crime syndicate, and an eccentric and terrifying character at the center of it all – yet Whitey never quite coheres or fully expresses what exactly it wants to illuminate about any of these subjects, alone or in relation to one another.

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Johnny Depp

While we’re not usually inclined to speculate on the financial desires of Hollywood’s brightest stars, it seems as if today’s report that Johnny Depp has dropped out of Barry Levinson‘s Whitey Bulger biopic, Black Mass, due to financial disagreements leaves us little choice. Deadline had reported that this was a possibility last night, writing then that “the troubles are in making his [Depp's] deal and things aren’t looking great at the moment.” THR now weighs in with the firm news that Depp has exited the biopic, citing budget issues – namely, that the film’s trimmed budget wasn’t going to accommodate Depp’s “usual” $20M fee and that Depp wasn’t going to accommodate a price drop that would have put his paycheck closer to $10M. With Depp attached to the film since February, it raises the question – why now? THR also reports that the film’s sale at Cannes was “on the soft side,” leading to a necessary budget trim that would put the total cost of the film in the $60M range. A “producer source” does, however, dispute the soft angle, “saying the sales were on target and that most territories were sold.” No matter what happened, the film is now out one major (and majorly bankable) star in Depp.

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