Thursday, September 22, 2016

Film Recommendation of the Week...

The Seven-Five
Director-Tiller Russell
Release Date-May 8, 2015.
Running Time-1 Hour 45 Minutes. 

There are many anti-social issues that must coalesce to create the type of dysfunction that is found in an out-of-control inner city neighborhood. It's not just the criminals that bear responsibility, but the police officers who have taken an oath to "protect and serve". When that last piece of the puzzle goes wrong, you get what happened in the 75th precinct in East New York, Brooklyn in the late 1980's to early 90's. The focus of the film is ex-police officer Michael Dowd, whose rampage over the neighborhood during the city's crack epidemic is one for the ages. His exploits were so outrageous he has been dubbed the most corrupt cop ever in the history of the NYC Police Department, and he minces no words when re-telling the tale. It's one thing to witness the type of entrenched corruption that was endemic in the department from a film like "Serpico". It's quite another thing to hear every gritty detail straight from the horse's mouth. 

This is a one-of-a-kind documentary that is as harrowing as it is fascinating. What makes it so enthralling is twofold-

1) Most if not all the main actors are still alive and made themselves available to the director. What is more amazing is the main drug dealer who had two police officers on his payroll at a cost of $4,000 dollars a week EACH was found in the Dominican Republic after being deported when he concluded a long prison sentence. 

2) The still photographs of East New York during this time really made for quite a jarring experience, especially since I vividly recall going there as a kid and still remember being shocked at what I saw. Block after block of decimated, abandoned buildings and all manner of shady-looking, poverty-stricken people walking around. So if anyone who doesn't know asks if East New York really looked like that, tell them "yes, indeed it did". But what gave this film an authenticity rarely felt in even the best documentaries are the shots of police surveillance film of the actual drug dealers that were under investigation who are featured in this film. 

Though this is not meant to make this rogues' gallery of villains seem likable, they are indeed charismatic in their own twisted way. And if you know anyone who happens to be a successful criminal, you realize that charisma is an important component of their personalities. And Michael Dowd is a born storyteller. If he wasn't a compelling public speaker, no way this documentary winds up being as good as it is. All the other details are better left for the documentary itself. It's currently on cable television, but you can also purchase the documentary from wherever they still sell DVD's. The story of the 75th Precinct and corrupt ex-cop Michael Dowd is as crazy as it gets, and this documentary is one of the best I've seen. It is highly recommended. You will not be disappointed.

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