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


Action / Biography / Crime / Documentary


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October 16, 2014 at 12:21 PM



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23.976 fps
1hr 47 min
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Movie Reviews

Reviewed by runamokprods 8 / 10

Always engaging on an intellectual and moral level.

Interestingly, this focuses more on the crimes (or potential crimes) of law-enforcement, especially the FBI, than on the admitted crimes of terrorizing mob boss 'Whitey' Bulger.

Bulger's trial is highly unusual, in that the defense is making no effort to say their client is innocent, and they know he'll spend his last days in prison (he's 83 at the time of the trial). The issue is really; instead of being an informant as claimed by the FBI and others, did Whitey really have them all on his payroll? Is the government more worried about cleaning their own dirty laundry without blame than in getting Whitey behind bars? And the larger moral question, even IF Bulger was an informant, was that really worth letting him run free, killing 19 people and raining fear on the residents of South Boston?

There's no conclusive smoking gun of a conspiracy, but there sure is a ton of circumstantial evidence, and Berlinger gives a good job of presenting it in a building, cinematic fashion – starting with the simple fact that everyone knew Whitey ran the neighborhood for years and years, yet he was never once charged with anything. And then somehow he knew to run just before the authorities rounded up all the leadership of his gang, surviving as a fugitive for 16 years.

Not as emotionally powerful as Berlinger's great "Brothers Keeper" and very strong "Paradise Lost", but always engaging on an intellectual and moral level.

Reviewed by FilmMuscle 8 / 10

The Departed times Reality

James J. Bulger probably is the greatest mobster who ever lived, ending up as the second most wanted fugitive right next to Osama Bin Laden on the FBI's list. He survived 25+ years on the crime-ridden streets without even a slap on the wrist due to—you guessed it—bribery. The potent gangster's wits never failed him until the very end; he had other fellow mobsters doing most of his dirty work like murdering countless people that found themselves involved in this monumental mess of a business in one way or another—they got whacked because they didn't abide by the Bostonian mob's rules. Not to mention, there were the innocent such as Stephen Flemmi's (another mobster by Bulger's side) girlfriend who simply chose to call their relationship off, and boom!—she was dead…because she couldn't be trusted anymore.

See, this crime ring began to far outstretch its original scope as the FBI, themselves, came into the fold and started covering up the numerous nefarious acts committed by these heinous criminals for favors like protection or a nice wad of cash into the pocket. Everything was covered up; everyone continued with their respective business, and everyone protected each other and let nothing slip until the eventual downfall materialized. Suddenly, several mobsters were revealed as FBI informants, and the government agents and gangsters started ratting out on one another, culminating in a colossal display of pure chaos.

This intriguing documentary adopts a crime-thriller style (oftentimes resembling the tone of a film this history actually inspired: The Departed). Acoustic guitar music plays in the background as the true depth of this whole scheme—the chilling ties between the government and the menacing wiseguys out and about in our streets—unravels. An abundance of information and interviews with highly significant figures in this horrific matter flesh out an incredibly compelling and scary story of America's troubled past—of a corruption that streams not only through our transparently wicked but also through those who've promised to serve and protect us. The smell and appearance of money tempts and is never rejected by any human being, and that is the frightening point that is expressed herein: "anyone is prone to corruption" as the film strongly emphasizes. There is no escape from the toxic system we've built and deeply dug ourselves into—the depravity of capitalism will persist 'til the end of days.

In terms of documentaries in general, this will be a very entertaining experience for anyone even though it occasionally gets wrapped up in its somewhat sophisticated presentation of facts, terminology, and the multitude of individuals involved throughout this shameful era. Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger also interestingly does something I see all too rarely in documentaries: even those who you witnessed being interviewed in-person somewhere during its duration unexpectedly meet their deaths in the coming months and years as the narrative proceeds, excellently showcasing the extent of time the filmmakers dedicated to this project and the refreshing unpredictability that comes with it. Overall, this thrilling account will allow you to look through two equally felonious perspectives (that are supposed to be operating on the exact opposite sides of the law, mind you) that first support each other but then come to a clash as all things do: the mob circuit and the US government. If that premise doesn't fascinate you, I have no idea what will.

Reviewed by gavin6942 8 / 10

The Crime Documentary of the 21st Century

Number 2 on America's Most Wanted list after Osama Bin Laden, James "Whitey" Bulger terrorized Boston for years without ever being charged with so much as a misdemeanor. Bulger was a monster, murdering over a dozen known victims, but did the FBI and local law enforcement give his reign of terror over South Boston a free pass?

If this documentary did nothing more than simply chronicle the trial of Whitey Bulger, it would be a great documentary. Because, simply put, this is the biggest organized crime trial in a long time, rivaling the Family Secrets case of Chicago or the Pizza Connection case of New York. But they go much further.

We get some background on Irish crime in the Boston area. Nothing too thorough, but enough to grasp the situation and neighborhood that Bulger grew up in. Whereas the Sicilians had displaced the Irish in just about every major city when it comes to organized crime, in Boston the Irish remained strong.

Even better, we get an overview of the Top Echelon Criminal Informant Program (TECIP), starting with rarely seen footage of Joe Valachi in 1963 and working up to the present. This is a comparison of Bulger and Gregory Scarpa (another murderous mobster protected by the FBI), but then we get to a serious question: was Bulger even an informant as the FBI claims? Angela Clemente, the leading authority on federal informants, thinks not.

Bulger himself speaks in the film, saying police, ATF and FBI were paid off in cash, not information -- Bulger claims up to $25,000 or even $50,000 at a time. Now, of course, he may be lying. He made a career of lying and stealing. But what if he is telling the truth? Then this becomes a story of not only a ruthless killer... but a deeply corrupt justice system.

This documentary is brilliant and really is must-see viewing.

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