Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (USA, 2014)

Whitey-FinalArt-4-25Directed by: Joe Berlinger. I put this on as a little brain-dead TV watching time, space-filler. I didn’t know much about this guy, except that he was the basis for Jack Nicholson in The Departed and explicitly Johnny Depp in the new Black Mass, which I haven’t seen. And as much as I kind of avoid “true crime”, I still somehow get pretty interested in organized true crime, and the Irish Boston mob is something I know basically nothing about, and something that really appeals to my nerd instincts. It’s too bad that you don’t really see Whitey Bulger at all in this movie, not even really many photos, but that’s only because this whole case is very much alive and in progress—the documentary is so current that one of the key witnesses, the first guy you see in the film, ends up dying of mysterious circumstances by the end, and this death very much plays into the case and the drama surrounding the whole thing. This is a really effective, exciting, immersive documentary that feels like a movie. It’s enough that, frankly, after seeing this movie, there’s no way that Black Mass isn’t going to feel really overdone and stylized and cartoonish (as if it wasn’t already with that fucking makeup and contact lenses on Johnny there). And as far as real-life players go, you get lots of face time with the attorneys, lots of face time with the lower-level mobster enforcers, real killers and bruisers, and you get Bulger’s lawyer talking to Whitey himself on speaker phone. Probably the most interesting part of this is the cover-up angle, the dispute of events between what the FBI’s official stance is, the lawyers, the Boston PD, the gangsters, all that stuff, wrapped up in a dense and ambiguous puzzle—was Whitey Bulger giving information (about rival Italian mobs, etc) to the FBI in exchange for immunity, or was he (a fabulously wealthy criminal kingpin) paying the FBI for information on what law enforcement was doing? Of course, something as big as this, concerning the corridors of power, etc, will likely never be completely explained in a satisfactory way, but it makes for interesting documentary nonetheless.

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One response to “Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger (USA, 2014)

  1. Pingback: Meru (USA, 2015) | Offhand Reviews·

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