Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger

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Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger
head shot of a man
Sundance Film Festival poster
Directed byJoe Berlinger
Produced byJoe Berlinger
Caroline Suh
Music byWendy Blackstone
CinematographyRobert Richman
Étienne Sauret
Edited byAlex Horwitz
Joshua L. Pearson
Release date
Running time
129 minutes[1]
CountryUnited States
Box office$75,644[2]

Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger is a 2014 American biographical documentary film produced and directed by Joe Berlinger. It is produced by CNN Films and Radical Media.[3] Its world premiere was at the 2014 Sundance Film Festival on January 18, 2014.[4][5]


The film narrates the trials of gangster James "Whitey" Bulger, using the legal proceedings as a springboard to explore allegations of corruption within the highest levels of law enforcement.

Critical reception[edit]

After its premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, the film received mostly positive reviews from critics. Steve Greene of Indiewire grade the film A- and said that "As a primer on both the case and Bulger's career as a mob leader, "Whitey" offers a comprehensive look at a saga that – despite the conclusion of the 2013 trial – still feels unresolved."[6] Drew Talor in his review for The Playlist praised it by comparing it with Berlinger's 1996 documentary film Paradise Lost: The Child Murders at Robin Hood Hills that "It might not be the same emotional sucker punch that "Paradise Lost" was, but in a strange way 'Whitey' might be more tragic."[7] Raffi Asdourian of The Film Stage in his review said that "The film weaves together an ornate tapestry of corruption that is a comprehensive exploration of a very complicated case. Insightful and revelatory, this documentary will surely fascinate anyone with any interest about the case or learning about the man who inspired Jack Nicholson's character in The Departed."[8]

However, John DeFore of The Hollywood Reporter gave a negative review, saying, "Sprawling and sometimes a grind at over two hours, the doc is both cinematically uninspired and journalistically jumbled, muddying its potent main arguments."[1]

Kevin Cullen, Boston Globe columnist and co-author of Whitey Bulger: America's Most Wanted Gangster and the Manhunt That Brought Him to Justice, criticized the film as being too credulous of Bulger's claims that he was never an FBI Informant. In a June, 2014 Boston Globe article, Cullen wrote: "Berlinger does a public service by showing, in detail, that after all these years, after the millions spent on Whitey's trial, we still don't know the extent of corruption by the FBI and the Justice Department when it came to enabling Whitey, or whether FBI agents and supervisors got away with murder. But Berlinger's documentary, in an attempt to put its own stamp on a story so often told, lends undeserved legitimacy to Whitey's unsubstantiated claim that he wasn't an informant. The film ignores much of the overwhelming evidence in the public record, and the resulting impression is so guileless and sympathetic to Whitey as to be disingenuous."[9]


  1. ^ a b DeFore, John (2014-01-18). "Whitey: United States of America V. James J. Bulger: Sundance Review". The Hollywood Reporter. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  2. ^ Box Office Mojo Staff (2016-05-18). "Whitey: USA v. James J. Bulger (2014)". boxofficemojo.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  3. ^ Murphy, Shelley (2014-01-18). "Whitey Bulger talks in rare audio from documentary premiering at Sundance". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  4. ^ Filmmaker Staff (2014-01-17). "Whitey: United States of America v. James J. Bulger - Director Joe Berlinger". Filmmaker Magazine. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  5. ^ Burr, Ty (2014-01-20). "Whitey Bulger documentary premieres at Sundance Film Festival". BostonGlobe.com. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  6. ^ Greene, Steve (2014-01-22). "Sundance Review: Joe Berlinger's 'Whitey' is a Captivatin". Indiewire. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  7. ^ Taylor, Drew (2014-01-19). "Sundance Review: Director Joe Berlinger's Riveting True C". The Playlist. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  8. ^ TFS Staff (2014-01-25). "Sundance 2014 Documentary Wrap-Up: 'Whitey,' 'Internet's Own Boy,' 'Battered Bastards,' 'Electric Sky' & More". The Film Stage. Retrieved 18 May 2016.
  9. ^ Cullen, Kevin (2014-05-26). "In swallowing Bulger's lies, 'Whitey' documentary suffers". The Boston Globe. Retrieved January 20, 2016.CS1 maint: uses authors parameter (link)

External links[edit]