Cinema Review: Whitey | Under the Radar - Music Magazine
Saturday, September 26th, 2020  

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

Studio: Magnolia Pictures
Directed by Joe Berlinger

Jun 24, 2014 Web Exclusive
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In June 22nd, 2011, the FBI arrested James “Whitey” Bulger in Santa Monica. The crime boss had been at large for 16 years, spending 12 of those near the top of the FBI’s Most Wanted Fugitives list (second only to Osama Bin Laden.) He was returned to Boston, the city he’d terrorized the city since the early 1970s as leader of the violent Winter Hill Gang, where he would wait trial. After two months in court, Bulger was found guilty of 31 of 32 charges and complicit in 11 murders. The 83-year-old was sentenced to two life terms plus five years in prison.

Joe Berlinger’s Whitey focuses almost exclusively on Bulger’s 2013 trial, only giving the briefest information regarding his background and his rise to prominence. The audience is treated to two hours of talking heads, archival news footage, and narrative re-enactments, as cameras were not permitted inside the courthouse. All sides of the case are dully represented in interviews, including interviews with the prosecution and the defense attorneys, law enforcement officials, and witnesses, including several of Bulger’s victims and former associates. However, as the film was shot simultaneous to the trial, their statements rarely vary from what was said in court transcripts. The Bulger trial famously shed light on decades’ worth of corruption within Boston’s law enforcement, which is alluded to throughout the documentary but explored in minimal depth. Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger would have been a more engrossing film had it picked one angle and pursued it. In its dogged effort to present every side of the trial in equal measure, it fails to make any firm statement, rendering it hardly any more engaging than the trial’s WikiPedia entry.

Author rating: 3.5/10

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