Take a Drink: whenever Whitey’s untouchability is mentioned
Take a Drink: for each horrifying story
Take a Drink: for every view of the suspect board
Take a Drink: whenever you hear “rat” or “informant”
Do a Shot: for memento mori
By: Henry J. Fromage (Two Beers) –
Boston gangster Whitey Bulger has been quite the source of cinematic fascination ever since Jack Nicholson’s loosely disguised portrayal in The Departed. Later this year Johnny Depp’s turning in what looks to be an intense performance in Black Mass, and of course Ben Affleck’s got a Bulger pic brewing.
Did you know I’m from Bahston?
In short, Whitey is a documentary about Bulger’s 2013 trial for racketeering, extortion, money laundering, and culpability in 19 murders, which finally landed him in prison, but it also examines his six decade criminal career, the struggles of the families of his victims for justice, and how his entanglement with all levels of law enforcement helped him evade justice for so long.
Director Joe Berlinger (alongside the late Bruce Sinofsksy) spent years examining the intersection between crime and punishment in the Paradise Lost documentaries about the West Memphis Three, and does a similarly adept job at establishing the weight and the insanity of the trial.
Except this time, the plaintiff actually is guilty
He also provides historical context for both Bulger’s cultural footprint and notoriety and the trial itself, without losing sight of the effect of his evil on common folk, interviewing several survivors of his reign of horror, with the fate of one of which showing it may not quite over.
The FBI and police come out looking nearly as dirty as Bulger does, and in a strange twist, Bulger seems more focused on bringing them down with him. His fucked up garbage sense of honor is such that he’s more concerned with not being labeled an informant than not going to prison for the rest of his life.
Or, you know, don’t be a human hemorrhoid in the first place
The biggest, though understandable, whiff is the failure to interview Bulger himself. Instead we get victims, law enforcement delivering the party line, and Robert Fitzpatrick, who is either a hero cop connected to events immortalized in Mississippi Burning, American Hustle, and The Departed or an accused perjurer who’s full of shit. The film doesn’t seem to have an opinion. In general, Whitey lacks the goal or thesis of the Paradise Lost films. It becomes a slog through the kingdom of filth Bulger built for himself.
Whitey presents a fascinating, disgust-inducing American crime saga, but gets a bit lost in the details.