The Seven Five: Cops are robbers

Tiller Russell’s The Seven Five, which details in spectacularly compelling fashion the widespread corruption of the 75 th Precinct that rocked New York City in the 1980s and ‘90s, is not only one of the best documentaries of the year, but hands-down one of the best films of the year.

The principal character, as it were, is Michael Dowd, a police officer at the titular precinct who soon fell prey to greed and temptation. Putting his life on the line day in and day out in one of the city’s most dangerous regions for a weekly paycheck got very old very fast. In no way does the film excuse or justify his actions, which are frankly inexcusable – and led to a lengthy prison stint – but Russell digs beneath the dirt to examine his circumstances fascinating depth.

As one observer notes, there’s plenty of money to be found in the ghetto if you know where to look. Dowd knew where to look, what to take, and how to get away with it – at least for a time. Pocketing cash, drugs and guns led to bribes, pay-offs, and even a murder or two. It wasn’t long before Dowd and his partner, Kenny Eurell, realized they had gone past the point of no return – and were still hurtling downward.

With startling detail and thorough, in-depth interviews with those involved – including cops, prosecutors, DEA agents, and even criminals – The Seven Five explores the circumstances that led to the escalating cycle of corruption that once permeated the mean streets of Gotham. Little wonder that a feature film is in development. It’s one hell of a story, and it happens to be true. It’s the kind of gritty, urban morality play that seems tailor-made for Martin Scorsese or, once upon a time, the late Sidney Lumet.

The Seven Five opens Friday at a/ perture cinema, Winston-Salem.

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