‘My Name Is Bulger’: A tale of two brothers

For Whitey’s younger brother William, scorning publicity was a thing really distinct: a subject of seemingly perverse basic principle. Publicity, even far more than funds, is the mother’s milk of politics. Just talk to the Kennedys. For 35 a long time, Bill Bulger served as a legislator, like a file-environment 18 yrs as president of the Massachusetts Senate. He then experienced the very noticeable job of president of the College of Massachusetts. But his distaste for the media and the community part of being a community determine was as significantly a section of the Bulger persona as becoming from South Boston.

So the most outstanding thing about Brendan J. Byrne’s documentary — for any person who’s adopted Bill Bulger’s career it’s stunning, truly — is the degree of cooperation Byrne got from the Bulger household for this joint portrayal of the two brothers. It begun out as a profile of Invoice, Byrne states, but he rapidly understood he could not tell the tale of the young brother without having also telling the tale of the more mature.

The Bulger brothers as small children, from “My Title Is Bulger.”discovery+

Whitey’s not listened to from. He just cannot be. In 2018, he was murdered in prison. We do hear from his longtime associate, Catherine Greig. The interview is billed as a “world initial.” “World” seems above the major. But Byrne is from Northern Eire, and he’s proposed that his Irish roots served account for the family’s opening up to him.

Byrne’s been specified entry to family pictures and house movies. 5 of Bill’s nine kids are interviewed, as are his late spouse, Mary, and his and Whitey’s late older sister, Jean. Bulger, who is now 87, himself is interviewed. We see him singing at the family supper desk and as a spectator at the South Boston St. Patrick’s Day parade.

By the specifications of Kardashian culture, this access is C-SPAN-sedate. By Bulger requirements, it is up shut and very individual — and by no means extra so than when Invoice is filmed by yourself with Whitey’s shut casket, reciting “Our Father.” The scene verges on the voyeuristic. It is the most startling matter in the documentary, even more than the attempts of the Bulger children to try out to humanize their uncle. They accept his criminality, of system, but describe him as a additional complex figure than the public graphic. Although Whitey did monstrous things, he “was not the monster they designed him out to be,” his nephew Jim suggests.

Catherine Greig in
Catherine Greig in “My Title Is Bulger.”Discovery+

In fairness, Bill’s children are nearly prosecutorial in comparison with Greig. She recalls “a brutally scorching day” though she and Whitey ended up hiding out in California. Recognizing an aged pair by the side of the freeway with car difficulties, he spent an hour serving to them transform a tire. “That’s the sort of human being he was: a very sort, giving person.” Monty Python admirers may come across them selves pondering of the Piranha Brothers sketch: “He was a cruel male — but fair.”

Whitey associates notify a various tale. Kevin Months bears a rather unnerving resemblance to Steve Schirripa, Bobby on “The Sopranos.” What he has to say about Whitey rings truer than what Greig remembers. “After he killed somebody, he’d be great and calm. It was form of like taking a Valium or something. It was more than and that was it. It was completed, and he’d be on to one thing else.”

Kevin Weeks in
Kevin Months in “My Identify Is Bulger.”Discovery+

Byrne has selected filmmaking tics — aerial sights of Southie alternate with atmospheric nighttime pictures of Southie — but he understands what he’s carrying out. The documentary moves ideal along, packing a whole lot into somewhat more than 90 minutes. To give just a single illustration: So much of Bill Bulger’s animus toward the push, and vice versa, dates from the 1970s and the courtroom-ordered desegregation of Boston educational facilities. Bulger was a main opponent. The film’s handling of the busing crisis is considerably from comprehensive — that would be a entire various documentary — but it is impressively concise and hears out both equally sides.

The Bulger tale has been informed numerous occasions, maybe in this newspaper a lot more usually than anyplace else. Component of that tale is the longstanding enmity among Bill and the World. The paper will come in for about two minutes of whole-on slagging, as effectively as the occasional important remark elsewhere. Reasonable sufficient. But Byrne also offers a well known purpose to Globe reporter and Whitey biographer Shelley Murphy. Longtime Boston Herald columnist Peter Gelzinis is interviewed, far too, as are previous governors Michael Dukakis and William Weld.

Bill Bulger at his desk in
Bill Bulger at his desk in “My Identify Is Bulger.”Discovery+

As Murphy notes, the tale is like something out of an aged-time Hollywood motion picture. Two brothers grow up in the Southie initiatives. Whitey finishes up on the FBI’s 10 Most Desired list. Monthly bill results in being arguably the most potent elected formal in Massachusetts.

Likely on the lam with Greig, Whitey eludes capture for 15 many years. This can make him internationally popular. Johnny Depp plays him in an true Hollywood film, ”Black Mass.” (Benedict Cumberbatch performs Monthly bill.) Byrne consists of a quick excerpt. Significantly extra entertaining are quite a few clips of Monthly bill presiding in excess of the annual St. Patrick’s Working day breakfast.

In 2003, Invoice is forced to resign the presidency of UMass. His testimony prior to a US Residence committee about becoming in touch with Whitey immediately after he fled indictment potential customers to a storm of criticism. The tale now leaves Hollywood behind to turn into biblical. It is a version of Cain and Abel, only as an alternative of murdering his brother, Cain murders his brother’s occupation.

From “My Identify Is Bulger.”Discovery+

This is the contradiction at the coronary heart of “My Title Is Bulger.” It seems to consider that in defending Bill, it desires to see Whitey’s status as a instrument used towards Invoice by Bill’s enemies. In fact, Whitey’s track record was a resource Whitey utilised from every person and the nature of that popularity — or, rather, the functions it sprang from — made no exceptions for family. Bill’s worst enemy wasn’t the World or Republicans or suburban liberals he could handle all those simply sufficient. Bill’s worst enemy was Whitey. That wasn’t Whitey’s intention — any additional than receiving caught out there in Santa Monica was. But that is what his steps designed him.

It’s a spouse and children member, Whitey’s and Bill’s sister Jean, who states the circumstance in this article in opposition to Whitey most damningly. “You don’t even know if he has the ability to glimpse over and above what his personal little everyday living is and how it’s affected any individual else. I’m not guaranteed he goes there.” No, he was much too busy using the equivalent of a Valium or anything.



Directed by Brendan J. Byrne. Streaming on Discovery+. 92 minutes. Unrated (as PG-13: language, graphic conversations of criminal violence)

Mark Feeney can be achieved at [email protected]