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

A documentary that captures the sensational trial of infamous gangster James 'Whitey' Bulger, using the legal proceedings as a springboard to explore allegations of corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement. Academy Award-nominated filmmaker Joe Berlinger examines Bulger's relationship with the FBI and Department of Justice that allowed him to reign over a criminal empire in Boston for decades.


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  • ★★★½ review by Filmspotting on Letterboxd

    Oh, so THAT'S why the United States of America convicts Whitey Bulger.

    ...Sorry, inside joke.

    Lamentable that there's not a whole lot to be done visually with this compelling tale of crime, corruption and tragedy — another helicopter shot of the Boston courthouse? But Joe Berlinger sensitively cuts to the essence of the personal and political complexities of the case. One of the more fascinating, unexplored elements is introduced at the end by Bulger in voice-over. Shrewdly portraying himself as the victim, Bulger slams the industry that continues to prosper around him. "This is a sham trial... The feds have the green light. Nobody ever checks on them... These reporters are hand-fed stuff from FBI agents and then they write crime stories, they write books and everything else. They're hand and fist with them. The one thing they all know is, it works... This system here, it isn't gonna change." Is a documentary about Bulger — even with Berlinger's decidedly non-sensational approach and seemingly pure intentions to shed light on said system's brokenness — inevitably just another cog in the machine?

  • ★★★½ review by Keith on Letterboxd

    Perhaps the inspiration for any number of Dennis Lehane stories, this true crime exposé centers on the trial of a mafia boss who enjoyed a perplexingly long reign in Boston.

    Sorting out who to believe among government mouthpieces, disgraced law enforcement officers, and mob attorneys is the challenge (and likely an intriguing personality test).

  • ★★★½ review by Craig Duffy on Letterboxd

    Putting the name "Whitey" upfront is kind of a misdirect. This is not his story. This is the FBI's story and Whitey is just the lynchpin. I'm interested to see how Black Mass handles this story because it doesn't seem like there is much to Whitey outside of being a murderous thug. The intrigue is with the Feds.

  • ★★★½ review by C.J. on Letterboxd

    Part of my preparation for Hot Docs this year. It's a dense doc, one that will lose viewers at times (including myself), but Berlinger zeroes in on the defense's argument that the FBI collaborated with Bulger and presents a hell of a convincing case.

    I wish it were longer, or less sprawling in its coverage, as it could have been something a lot greater. As it stands, it's an involving doc that'll be sure to get people talking. I'll talk about this a bit more in my Hot Docs coverage for Way Too Indie.

  • ★★★½ review by Casey Buchanan on Letterboxd

    An interesting documentary about the man that was the inspiration for Jack Nicholson's character Frank Costello in The Departed. Unlike other gangster types, it is implied throughout the documentary, that Whitey actively conspired with the FBI to take down the Italian mafia. All the while having cart blanche to murder, steal, and intimidate all of Boston. One of the underlining themes I noticed in the interviews with colleagues and law enforcement was that no one ever denied that Whitey was a crook. Not even Whitey himself, but the big point of contention was whether he was actively working with the FBI. this movie is packed with interviews and information, I found myself having to rewind it several times throughout just to help soak up all the talking points. But overall an interesting story about an equally interesting and ruthless thug.

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