Wrapped in a labyrinth of lies and half-truths, Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is a truly captivating mystery. In documenting both the criminal life and subsequent 2013 racketeering trial of Boston mobster James “Whitey” Bulger, filmmaker Joe Berlinger ends up with a film that poses more complex questions than it does answers.
Rising up the criminal ranks quickly, Bulger terrorized the citizens of South Boston for decades. Allegedly involved in 19 murders and 32 felony counts, and no doubt countless other crimes, Bulger ruled the concrete jungle like a menacing lion. Inflicting pain and fear on those who dared defy him, Bulger believed that he owned Boston. In many ways he was right. A gangster and an alleged FBI informant, Bulger sunk his claws into the veins of those on both side of the law. This not only allowed him to grow his criminal empire, but also gave him an almost untouchable status for many years.
Using Bulger’s recent trial as a jumping off point, Berlinger crafts a riveting film that forces us to question our interpretations of truth and justice. Through extensive interviews with the likes of victims, FBI agents, gangsters, and countless others, Berlinger convincingly offers a stunning road map of corruption at all levels. He makes us ponder how much we really trust the people sworn to serve and protect us? Are we willing to accept the end result if it means enabling killers in the short term? Despite the overall outcome of Bulger’s trial, Berlinger magnificently shows how Bulger’s grasp on South Boston will always linger.
Sunday, April 27, 9:00 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Monday, April 28, 1:00 PM, TIFF Bell Lightbox
Sunday, May 4, 9:30 PM, Bloor Hot Docs Cinema
Spot on review, Courtney. It’s a fascinating story told in concise and easy to follow manner … Whitey frightens me!
Bulger is a chilling figure indeed. It is shocking, and frightening, that he was able to get away with what he did for so long.
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