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Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger Review – Explosive, Stunning, Powerful

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"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger," from Magnolia Pictures and CNN Films, presents a haunting account of DOJ corruption that enabled the most notorious mobster in recent history to rule South Boston for more than three decades.

 

Directed by Joe Berlinger, "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger," weaves together in explosive and revelatory fashion all accounts of the story as told by Whitey himself, the families of the victims, the lawyers, FBI and Department of Justice officials.

"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger," begins with Steven Rakes, explaining his first encounter with Bulger who came to his door on Christmas Day to murder him as his competitors paid for the hit. Instead he decided to spare the Liquor store owner's life and simply extort the store from him.  Rakes, who was often described as a lynch pin witness for the prosecution, died mid-trial of arsenic poisoning.

Bulger, was arrested in Santa Monica, California, where by all accounts he "hide" in plain sight for sixteen years, living with his longtime girlfriend, Catherine Greig. The truth, however, of his life on the lam, is more suspicious as details of hidden deals with high level Department of Justice officials surfaced in Berlinger's tale.

Bulger, who led Boston's premier Irish Organized Crime Gang, faced a 33-count indictment including 19 murders. As the story develops of a family split in pursuits of power with Whitey's younger brother, William, becoming one of the most powerful quasi legitimate politicians in the state and his own pursuit of power propelling him to leader of the Winter Hill Gang.

"Whitey" is layered with political and judicial corruption, which is exposed, not simply in speculation with unanswered and unproven questions but with convictions at the highest level of judicial organization in Massachusetts.

Understanding the devastation the survivors have experienced and then to be re-victimized by the system and again by the corruption of higher levels of law enforcement through Berlinger's "Whitey" they were finally given the platform to voice their stories, feelings and they spoke with honesty. It has been too many years that they were regulated to the sideline, negated, and marginalized simply because they could be.

Berlinger allows the story to unfold, presented through personal account, audiotapes and news footage as each of the four corners, the law enforcement, the victims, reporters and Whitey,  each add elements painting a picture of a brutal, vicious, violent and most importantly, enabled, mobster.

Local reporters for the Boston Globe and radio WBUR, set the tone and historical reference, and gave courtroom account, all waited for the day when this inhuman and sadistic mobster that became the inspiration for Martin Scorsese's The Departed, a man who had literally vanished with the finality of his victims, would be brought to justice, tried and presumably convicted,

Having the opportunity to participate in the recent Media Day at Magnolia Pictures Manhattan offices attended by Joe Berlinger and Defense Attorney Hank Brennan, I found them to be both surprising and interesting. Whitey Bulger is a fascinating subject and these two bring back the stories from the other side.

"Whitey" Director Joe Berlinger, is accustomed to unleashing the fury of a corrupt system and gives account of his own beliefs, as the prosecution deliberately shut down the defense which is in direct opposition to the American justice process.  The truth being stranger than fiction Berlinger presents many interesting stories behind the "making of" "Whitey."

Defense attorney Hank Brennan, did surprise me as I expected a more jaded and honestly someone who could "sell" the slick argument and I found him to be sincere and able to affirm my own views of the FBI and DOJ.

So, while hoping for someone I could dismiss, believing it was courtroom theatrics, at the end of the day, Brennan presents a solid argument, not for innocence as Bulger admits to many of the crimes he is charged with, anchoring the possibility of a deal that allowed Bulger to remain on the streets in exchange for either a singular or long term protection exchange deal.

"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" is explosive, a powder keg of stunning hidden FBI and DOJ agenda secrets, and lies as the governments silences the potential escape of every stain, blight or department tarnish from seeing the light of day. "Whitey" a stand out, must see documentary drama!

"Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger" opens in select cities and is available on VOD and other streaming platforms June 27, 2014.

 

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