BOSTON PUBLIC RADIO
10:29 am
Thu June 13, 2013

BPR: Film Critic Garen Daly's Informant Film Picks

James Cagney plays Rocky Sullivan in the 1938 film Angels With Dirty Faces. Sullivan is ratted out by a childhood friend. Film critic Garen Daly said the film is a classic informant movie.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

We know what kind of influence James "Whitey" Bulger has had on Boston. His story is inextricably linked with the changing face of South Boston, the busing crisis and racial strife, and corruption that wound its way into the people and institutions tasked with enforcing the law.

Bulger's influence has been no less felt in Hollywood. Screenwriters have found the Bulger story irresistible, from his political ties — especially with brother William Bulger, former Massachusetts Senate president — to the way his story explains and exemplifies the close-knit Irish community in Southie.

But the greatest amount of intrigue for Hollywood — and for his defense team, incidentally — surrounds the Federal Bureau of Investigation's alleged use of Bulger as an informant. The 2006 film The Departed featured Jack Nicholson, in a rough facsimile of Bulger, as the ruthless underworld boss Francis Costello. In that film, Costello is linked with the upper echelons of law enforcement, and his cooperation earns him a measure of freedom to commit crimes and go about his daily criminal business.

The Departed is hardly the only film to feature a criminal-turned-informant. Outlaws with a mind for self-preservation draw scores to theaters to witness clandestine deals and power grabs in the name of prosecutorial immunity.

Film critic Garen Daly compiled a working list of the greatest informant films of the past century. If you're feeling overwhelmed by the day-to-day grind of the Bulger trial, take an evening off and have a look at any of the following films. And if your favorite one isn't on the list, add it in the comments below.

The Departed (2006) 

Breach (2007)

The Informant (2009)

Serpico (1973)

The Friends of Eddie Coyle (1973)

Angels With Dirty Faces (1938)

Monument Ave (1998)

Donnie Brasco (1997)

All The President's Men (1976)

On The Waterfront (1954)

Enron: The Smartest Guys In The Room (2005)

We Steal Secrets (2013)

Godfather II (1974)

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