James ‘Whitey’ Bulger. We’ve all heard the name, stories and seen him immortalized by Johnny Depp in ‘Black Mass’ One of the FBI’s ten most wanted fugitives, Bulger was blamed for 19 deaths and alluded authorities until June 22, 2011 when captured in Santa Monica. The notorious Boston gangster would ultimately be murdered in prison on October 30, 2018. With the imfamous gangster’s death being just as controversial as his life, the entire family has remained mute..until now.
My Name is Bulger begins with an introduction of the entire clan, including younger brother Bill, who was State Senate President for almost 20 years in Massachusetts., until being forced under pressure from then Governor Mitt Romney to reliquish his position as president of the University of Massachusetts in 2003 after pleading the fifth regarding his brother. This film weaves and bobs its way through stories of both brothers and their respective rise and fall featuring Intimate interviews shared from family members, as well as, an exclusive conversation with James Bulger’s girlfriend and partner, Catherine Greig.
Directed by Brendan J. Byrne, this doc makes a massive attempt to strip away the hysteria of media headlines and news bulletins while unfolding the tale of a unique American family craving to be judged for who they are, what they’ve done and not for alledged crimes their infamous relative did or didn’t commit. Was Whitey Bulger in fact the monsterous murder portrayed in the media or someone who just got caught up for all the wrong reasons?
Watching Bill Bulger joke with then President Bill Clinton and barbs from his wife recalling how she agreed to marry someone who had no money and $150 in his bank account, is communicated with only the type of glee a loving spouse would share. Today, they have nine children and thirty-three grandchildren. However, it is at this moment we snare a glimpse of family and friends that equally loved Bill and James. Yet, many of them were accutely aware James was not one to be messed with.
Getting the skinny of these two ‘southie’ brothers is quite contradictory of the global image projected for decades. As a self-proclaimed “fresh little punk from Southie,’ Whitey’s path had him constantly on the run from the law, while his brother (Bill) fought for the rights of Bostonians. As one of the Bulger sisters said, “…my brother Jim was always a worry and Bill was always a source of pride.” Although, I must admit, the section about Boston mirroring Apartheid over the issue of having Black bussed into their neighborhoods left me looking at the screen with one eye open. This area of Bill’s political career is rapidly glossed over as to not distract from the brothers storyline.
At the end of the day, My Name is Bulger is a tale of two ” Southie angels with dirty faces” who were drastically different. One, seemingly on the straight and narrow and the other carving out life long decisions eventually leading to losing his life just a mysteriously as those lives he was accused of murdering.
Being fascinated with gangsters, their backstory, how and when they went left this doc feels like it goes out of its way to to exonerate Bill Bulger as being guilty by association, but, simultaneously can’t resist going down the alleyways and seedy journey of Whitey’s world. Streaming on Discovery Plus and produced by Trevor Birney and Andrew Tully, this doc will leave you inquisitive, but with respect for a family who without a doubt holds up to the adage of family comes first.