Hot Docs 2014: Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger
James “Whitey” Bulger ruled organized crime in Massachusetts with an iron (and bloody) fist for over 30 years. But karma’s gonna get you, even if you’re Whitey Bulger and the criminal mastermind was finally tracked down and dragged to court at age 81. He was eventually convicted on 31 counts and two consecutive life terms plus five. Ostensibly, Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is the document of the life, crimes, and fall of Whitey Bulger. But there’s a twist.
Director Joe Berlinger is certainly no stranger to twisted and complicated tales. In his Paradise Lost trilogy, he dealt with the West Memphis 3 case, perhaps the most opaque true crime tale ever. One might think that a documentary about an infamous (and obvious) mob boss would be more straightforward, but not so. During his trial, Bulger and his defense team make government corruption an issue, which is understandable. What’s more head scratching is why Berlinger takes this path in Whitey.
Except… Berlinger manages to come up with some intriguing facts about the corruption of FBI agents. While in reality this has no bearing on the guilt or innocence of Whitey Bulger, exactly why the US Justice Department is ignoring it is a valid question. Whitey is stylistically an uninspired documentary – it reads a lot like an extended 48 Hours episode – and relies too heavily on bit players in the drama, but if you have an interest in the history of organized crime in the US, you’ll love it anyway.
Screening Times for Whitey: United States of America v. James Bulger
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Sun, Apr 27 9:00 PM
TIFF Bell Lightbox 1 Mon, Apr 28 1:00 PM
Bloor Hot Docs Cinema Sun, May 4 9:30 PM