A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this movie.
Loyalty is important, even to criminals. The main characters grew up together, and even though one is now an FBI agent and the other is a criminal, they frequently fall back on their longtime bonds and refuse to betray each other.
Positive Role Models
The main character is a violent gangster who kills anyone who gets in his way; he's abetted by corrupt, complicit law enforcement agents -- nobody comes across in a positive way.
Violence & Scariness
Bulger and his fellow violent thugs are shown taking out their enemies throughout the film. They beat people to a pulp, shoot them in the head at close range, strangle them, and leave bloodied corpses on the street, in cars, and more -- and it's all shown in gory close-up. Other killings are seen through graphic crime-scene photos, and still more happen off screen. Bulger is extremely menacing.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
A few scenes mention sexual activity; a sequence set at a nightclub shows couples dancing and groping each other.
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Constant, extreme swearing right from the very first scene. Characters use "f--k" in almost every conversation, and there's plenty of "s--t," "c--ksucker," and "f----t" as well.
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Products & Purchases
Adults drink Budweiser and Canada Dry.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Adults drink wine, beer, and hard liquor while socializing/hanging out at a bar. A few characters smoke cigarettes and cigars frequently. The main character is a gangster who controls the local drug trade, though viewers rarely see any drugs being sold or used. A minor character is shown snorting cocaine.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Black Mass is based on the true story of James "Whitey" Bulger (Johnny Depp) -- the most notorious gangster in South Boston history -- and his relationship with FBI agent John Connolly (Joel Edgerton). The pair, who were childhood pals, form an alliance to help take down Bulger's rivals, and things quickly get complicated ... and very violent. Expect many scenes of graphic brutality as Bulger (who exudes menace at all times) takes out anyone in his way, with gory, close-up scenes of people being shot in the head and beaten to death, as well as a disturbing, graphic strangulation. There's also extensive swearing, including "f--k" in nearly every scene, and plenty of drinking and smoking, as well as a little drug use and some groping and sex references, so this true-crime drama is best saved for older viewers. To stay in the loop on more movies like this, you can sign up for weekly Family Movie Night emails.
Is It Any Good?
The story of James "Whitey" Bulger -- mobster-turned-FBI-informant-turned-fugitive -- is the stuff of great fiction; Black Mass nearly does this rich material justice, but not quite. First, the good stuff: Told in a bracing history-revisited fashion bolstered by close-up "interviews," the film feels like it's allowing audiences into the backstage of a criminal investigation that most aren't privy to -- an effective means to lure viewers in. And the actors don't disappoint; as an ensemble, they're like a finely tuned machine (or, if you prefer, gang) that knows how to move with precision, led by a Depp so intense he could make you quake with his stare (though his over-the-top makeup is a bit distracting).
If only the movie dug as deep as it does wide. There's a Cliffs Notes-version feel to the Bulger we see here, and not much time is spent on getting to know what motivates him -- nor what he was like when he was finally captured. Nonetheless, Black Mass thrills.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.