Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger

GameStop, Inc.

whitney_posterI have a confession to make, until I was asked to review this movie I had no idea who James “Whitey” Bulger was. However being the kind of person who likes to research topics that he is unfamiliar with I went online and did just that. It was after this that I became truly interested in this documentary. Now before I go into my review I need to share a little background information with you.

In the rich history of organized crime in the United States James “Whitey” Bulger is a somewhat overlooked figure. He lacks the instantaneous name recognition of an Al Capone, Bugsy Siegel, or Lucky Luciano. That is unless you are related to or are yourself one of his many victims. Bulger began his criminal career in 1943 at the age of fourteen with an act of larceny; a career that would span nearly seven decades.

In the span of his very long career the Boston gangster committed everything from racketeering and hijacking to armed robbery and murder. He was involved in several gang wars. He even served a prison term in the infamous Alcatraz. Why wasn’t he put away for life? Well, he was an FBI informant… Or was he?

Whitey: The United States of America v. James J. Bulger documents the trial of the notorious criminal which took place in 2013, two years after his arrest. Bulger had been on the run since 1994. But there’s more to this film . Whitey uses the trial as a jumping off platform to explore corruption within the local and federal law enforcement agencies that allowed a dangerous criminal to run rampant. It dares to question whether Bulger was really an informant for the FBI or merely in bed with corrupt agents who benefited from his activities. The film does this through compelling interviews with the crime bosses former associates and retired former law enforcement officials.

Where this documentary really shines, however, is in the attention it gives to Bulgers long suffering victims. These people who have lived far too long in fear for their lives, who lost friends and relatives to this maniac, finally get the chance to testify in court. Their interviews are deeply emotional and I couldn’t help but feel for them. Unusual for a documentary is the tragedy that strikes one of the witnesses mid-filming. Whether this can be attributed to Bulgers influence is left up to the audience to decide.

Whitey is a superb chronicle of corruption and personal tragedy. While not without a few dull moments it ultimately succeeds as a fascinating look at how a crime can go unpunished when the people who are supposed to protect and serve the public fail to do their jobs. The final scene where we see Bulgers former victims celebrate his consecutive life sentences is truly cathartic. This film is proof that even in real life justice can prevail .

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