Movie Review - The Seven Five

This is a great documentary in the vein of recent, non-fiction films like Man on Wire (2008), The Imposter (2012) and The Dog (2014). It's a story set in New York City, a relatively recent story within 30 or 40 years or so. It involves a criminal, or someone undertaking something dangerous if not illegal where the perpetrator himself tells the story first-person. He's of course great at speaking and weaving his own tale, at being charming and maybe even engaging. This movie is also somewhat topical, given all the protests post-Ferguson, Missouri, from people who are wary of certain police practices and police culture.

Director Tiller Russell makes the film about Michael F. Dowd, the police officer who worked for the 75th Precinct in Brooklyn who was himself arrested in 1992 after having been with the NYPD for ten years. He was labeled the dirtiest cop at the time and perhaps still holds that title.

Russell obtained footage from September 1993 of the Mollen Commission, established by Mayor David Dinkins of Dowd testifying to his arrest and crimes. Dowd confessed to theft, extortion, trafficking and drug use, among other things. He was connected to two, illegal, drug organizations in New York linked to millions in trade and tons of murders.

That was over 20 years ago. Dowd never murdered anyone. He has since served his prison time and now he's out of jail. Russell, therefore, supplements that 1993 footage with a present-day interview of Dowd, as he reflects on his decade-long career and criminality in the 80's.

His story as it comes from him is amazingly told. It's all very enthralling. Of course, we're given an idea of why Dowd did what he did, and how it makes sense because he was not the only one, nor the first. He may have gotten away with what he was doing longer than most, but he was not alone. That is perhaps the biggest condemnation of police culture as one can get.

It's not to say that all cops are bad. It was cops, even corrupt ones that turned on Dowd, but the fact that he got away with his crimes for ten years says something about the organization and the culture-at-large, and that something isn't good.

If one has seen the TV series The Shield (2002), what Dowd was doing was tantamount to what Vic Mackey and his Strike Team were doing. Again, Dowd never killed anybody but what he did allowed for unfettered murder.

Even if one is able to separate Dowd from those deaths, Russell does not. Russell includes news reports either through paper or TV that show the devastation that Dowd's actions created. Tons of lives were destroyed because he wasn't doing his job properly. The death of Officer Venable leads to this conclusion.

It also leads to an absolutely thrilling, final act. The well-established bromance between Dowd and his partner-in-crime, Kenny Eurell, comes to a head, as the two are taken down in unexpected ways. Russell is able to craft some twists and turns that keep the final act exciting, and in a way heartbreaking.

It's not clear if the final shot is supposed to engender sympathy. It is however a notable punctuation on what was a highly emotional ride.

Five Stars out of Five.
Rated R for pervasive language, some grisly crime scene images, and drug content.
Running Time: 1 hr. and 44 mins.


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