Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger
One can be forgiven for thinking Whitey is a Hollywood thriller in the vein of Scorsese’s The Departed. As insight is gleaned into the true scale of the crime and corruption, this documentary reveals the extent to which Jack Nicholson’s character really was influenced by James Bulger. However, in reality the rat within the government is the FBI, and the rats within the racket are genuine gangsters in this twisted tale of corruption.
The documentary begins with the chilling account of the extortion witness Stephen Rakes was subjected to by Bulger and his right-hand man, Weeky. Unexpectedly, the focus of the piece goes past the horrific racketeering committed by the Winter Hill Gang to those who enabled them.
Berlinger employs emotive tactics to challenge the viewer’s conventional outlook of the FBI. The story unfolds through the victim’s families, showing shocking and disturbing images of the deceased and allowing the suspicious death of a witness to be discovered by his friend on camera: this narrative skill enables the documentary to have a vigilante impact. Drawing parallels to the director’s Paradise Lost Trilogy, corruption appears so institutionalised that it is untouchable – a haunting and dismal note to end on. This documentary is decisively sided: having given the FBI’s defence limited time, one is left unconvinced when confronted by the highly emotive and in-depth analysis given to the accusers.
It is a dense watch, bombarding viewers with court evidence and specialist interviews. Whether Berlinger has been too taken by the idea of Bulger as the moral bad guy or not, Berlinger delivers another skilled instalment to the crime documentary genre with this tense and emotive watch, putting both the criminal and the law enforcer on trial.
Whitey is released nationwide on the 25th September 2015.
Watch the trailer for Whitey here: