There are always so many complicated levels when dealing in the truth. Not just for the sake of finding justice but in finding the truth and discovering why events unfolded as they did...but when evidence is being suppressed, people are lying and no one is giving a straight answer to anything it is that much harder to find anything even remotely close to the truth. "Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger" is a shocking true crime documentary, not because it puts into question the guilt of this vicious and notorious gangster but because it shines a light on the shocking way he was allowed to operate for so very long.
This film captures the sensational trial of James J. Bulger, as he uses his proceedings to shine a light on decades of corruption throughout multiple levels of law enforcement that went on for decades and allowed Bulger himself to operate a crime syndicate for decades, without fear or consequence. It pulls back the curtain on some of the supposed truths of Bulger being an informant and exposes layers upon layers of deception, corruption and human frailty that is rampant through the justice system.
Director Joe Berlinger successfully gets these stories by being in the muck and the mire as the trial unfolds and so many variations on the truth begin to come to light.
Bulger is a criminal, but one who lives by a simple code of ethics as he would much rather be called a racketeer and a murderer then a snitch. Berlinger highlights so many inconsistencies more so on the government's side then on Bulger's story that it is fascinating to watch. Bulger knows he is going to pay for all of his crimes, but he is more upset about the implications that he violated a very strict code that he lived by. He may have been a murder and gangster, but he held himself to a strict code of the streets that is being usurped as the government crafts the story that they wanted to tell no matter how many holes it may have in it.
Berlinger allows us both sides of the coin, the satisfaction of this dangerous man going to jail, and a light shined on the overwhelming lies and cover ups that allowed Bulger to operate as long as he did. It's not a film about winning...it's one about the search for justice in a corrupt system where both the criminal and the officer of the law are both guilty.
Ultimately, "Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger" is the kind of crime doc that is just a flat out shocker, as it tells two stories at once. A film that provides the satisfaction of seeing a career criminal pay for the misery he has inflicted upon others and the horror that was perpetrated as life and death was low regard in the search of a supposed greater good, that didn't outweigh the horrible things Whitey Bulger did.
4 out of 5 stars.
"Whitey: United States of America vs. James J. Bulger" is now open in theatres in Toronto and Vancouver, please check with local listings for show times.