Whitey Bulger Is Not a Fan of Black Mass

Associates, reporters, and victims have not welcomed the movie with open arms.

Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. Photo by Warner Bros.

Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in Black Mass. Photo by Warner Bros.

Black Mass has received mixed reviews from film critics across the spectrum since its release. Some have likened the film to an elaborate 1970s costume party, while others praised Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Whitey Bulger as his best on-screen role in many years. Many voiced fatigue with the Boston noir genre.

People close to the real life Bulger story have ripped the movie for glorifying the South Boston gangster or for being out of touch with what actually happened during his time atop the Boston underworld.

Even Bulger himself is not a fan of the movie, though People reported that he doesn’t have plans to watch it.

Nevertheless, Bulger blasted the movie through a statement from his attorney Hank Brennan:

Johnny Depp might as well have been playing the Mad Hatter all over again as far as James Bulger is concerned. Hollywood greed is behind the rush to portray my client, and the movie missed the real scourge created in my client’s case, the real menace to Boston during that time and in other mob cases around the country – the federal government’s complicity in each and every one of those murders with the top echelon informant program.

Longtime Bulger associate Kevin Weeks panned the movie while going on what resembles a media tour. Weeks was unhappy with nearly everything in the movie, including how he was depicted physically and as a Bulger associate. Weeks published a book on his time with Bulger in 2007.

And the way the film portrays people like Stephen Flemmi and myself? We come across looking like a step away from Down syndrome, really. We’re portrayed as these low-life thugs that are borderline morons who haven’t washed for weeks. For all the money we were makin’, we came off like paupers. We dressed a certain way during the day, but at night we were wearing $2,700 Louis suits.

Steven Davis, brother of alleged Bulger victim Debbie Davis, saw the movie as profiting off a local tragedy.

Too much hurt still going on. It’s still too new to the heart for people.

Bulger was charged with Debbie Davis’s death, but the jury in his 2013 racketeering trial issued a verdict of “no finding” even though they found him responsible for 11 other murders.

David Boeri, a WBUR reporter who covered Bulger for decades, trashed the film in a piece for WBUR’s digital op/ed page.

The story is told here through a series of grisly murders. The victims come and then go as if they are props, with little to no character development or reason for us to care about them. In contrast, the movie presents Bulger as someone who loves his mother and his son and treats old women well — as if that makes him complicated. The families of his victims, who the Department of Justice has already treated so shabbily, will take little comfort in the brief and unconvincing moments designed to show Bulger’s lapses into humanity.

Boston Herald columnist and WRKO yakker Howie Carr covered Bulger when he was still a reporter. Carr, a proflic author on Bulger, called the film excellent, but still had some minor complaints about it.

By the way, in the movie, Johnny Martorano has been demoted from Whitey’s real-life partner to an underling, which he wasn’t. In Black Mass Johnny hangs out in Triple O’s, which he never even set foot in. As the movie begins, Martorano is being yelled at by germophobe Depp/Whitey for eating too many bar nuts in an unsanitary fashion.

I’m going to go out on a limb and say that if Whitey had ever yelled at Johnny Martorano, about anything, Black Mass would have ended at the three-minute mark. The thug Whitey yelled at for his dietary habits was Nicky Femia, whom Whitey cursed at for eating French fries, not nuts.