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Relative of alleged Bulger victim criticizes ‘Black Mass’ movie

Johnny Depp as Whitey Bulger in the trailer for "Black Mass." Warner Bros.

The brother of one of James “Whitey” Bulger’s alleged victims criticized “Black Mass,” the forthcoming movie about the gangster, saying Friday the big-budget Hollywood film is an insult to those still grieving for loved ones slain by the once-feared crime boss.

“A lot of the families are very, very upset about this,” said Steven Davis, 57, of Milton, whose sister, Debra, was allegedly strangled by Bulger in 1981. “I don’t like it one bit. . . . Everybody seems to be profiting off it. It’s sad for the movie industry, it’s sad for the actors.”

Jurors in Bulger’s federal trial in 2013 issued a verdict of “no finding” in Debra Davis’s death but found that Bulger participated in 11 other murders, as well as drug trafficking and extortion during a decades-long reign of terror in Boston.


Bulger, 85, was convicted in the sweeping racketeering indictment in August 2013 and is serving a life sentence.

A former Bulger associate, Stephen Flemmi, testified that he lured the 26-year-old Davis to a vacant house in South Boston on Sept. 17, 1981, and watched as Bulger choked her to death.

Steven Davis spoke to the Globe one day after the release of the trailer for “Black Mass,” which stars Johnny Depp as the notorious gangster. In the preview, a menacing Depp holds court during a meal, his eyes piercing as he tells another man that speaking flippantly “could get you buried real quick.”

The movie is slated for release in September.

Davis blasted the filmmakers for what he said was an attempt to cash in on Bulger’s murderous actions, which victims’ relatives had to relive during his trial.

“It’s too much hurt still going on,” Davis said. “It’s still too new to the heart for people.”

Warner Bros., the film’s distributor, declined to comment.


“Black Mass” is based on a 2000 book of the same title by former Boston Globe staffers Dick Lehr and Gerard O’Neill. It details Bulger’s time as an FBI informant and his corrupt relationship with the agency.

Bulger has insisted that he never served as an informant, despite a hefty file that indicates he provided information to the FBI from 1975 to 1990. Federal prosecutors said a disgraced former FBI agent also leaked intelligence to Bulger, which resulted in several murders.

On Friday, Steven Davis, reflecting on the upcoming film, said Hollywood should not glamorize Bulger.

“He was a piece of [expletive] anyway,” Davis said. “The only reason he had the power to do what he did was because the FBI was protecting him. . . . The movie industry and the actors, they’re the ones making the money. It’s another [expletive] slap in the face, that’s what we’re getting paid. Another slap in the face.”

Related coverage:

Johnny Depp menacing in newly released ‘Black Mass’ trailer

Title for ‘Whitey’ movie is ‘Black Mass’

Meet the cast of the local Whitey Bulger movie

‘Black Mass’ films in Dorchester

Benedict Cumberbatch takes role in ‘Whitey’ movie

Double-takes abound as Bulger movie films in Cambridge

Johnny Depp starts work as ‘Whitey’

Shelley Murphy and Milton J. Valencia of the Globe staff contributed to this report. Travis Andersen can be reached at travis.andersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.