Friday, September 11, 2015

DVDebut: Dirty cops reign in THE SEVEN FIVE, Tiller Russell's alarming-but-entertaining doc about a Brooklyn precinct in the 1980s

How do you become a dirty cop? According to Michael Dowd, the dirtiest of THE SEVEN FIVE, the documentary (making its DVD debut this coming Tuesday) about the New York Police Department's 75th Precinct, located in Brooklyn, the key can be found in the very training of the new recruits -- when they learn that to be a "good cop" means never ratting out a fellow offier, no matter what that officer has said or done. Maybe this sort of training has changed some since Dowd's day, but I rather doubt it. Couple that training to character traits present in people like Dowd and his partner, Kenneth Eurell, and you've got a recipe for crime and corrruption that goes from stealing drugs and cash to what the current Black Lives Matter movement has been railing against.

Tiller Russell's documentary (the filmmaker is shown at right) spills out the story of the corruption within the 75th Precinct in a manner that is very nearly as entertaining as it is disturbing. As far as halfway or more into the movie, you may experience, as did I, a queasy feeling that the film is practically saluting Michael Dowd for being so fucking clever and fun in all the ways he manages to make himself rich at the expense of everyone from us taxpayers to the drug dealers he both works for and steals from.

Mr. Dowd -- shown above, in his salad days (said salad was sprinkled with cocaine rather than parmesan cheese) and below, in felon-wear -- indeed proves an entertaining and informative narrator. As do a few other folk, including his partner, Mr Eurell (shown back in the day in the penultimate photo, below), along with a noted drug dealer named Adam Diaz. (Since many of these poeple are -- or were -- lawbreakers, you'll wonder just where they are now -- and why. Do stick around for the end credits, during which you'll learn much of what you wanted to know.)

At one point during the hearings devoted to the "work" of The Seven Five, a public official asks Dowd , "Whom did you consider to be your employer: the NY City Police Department or the drug traffickers?" And the man does admit he made a ton more money off the drugs than from his salary. When a cop gets shot and killed in the line of duty, and our boys go all sad and sentimental, you may want to toss in the towel. Hang on.

Things do change, and once Internal Affairs and a little betrayal enter the picture, the darkening that any thinking person will have been demanding finally sets in. Russell's desire to weave all this together -- the various narratives, incidents, characters and interviews -- entails some first-rate editing, and co-editors Chad Beck and James Carroll are more than up to the task.

So why are dirty cops so loathesome and yet so important? Dirty politicians are worse (almost all of them are dirty these days because they acccept campaign donations and then serve the money that elected them rather than the people they're supposed to be serving), but dirty cops hit us on a more personal level. betraying everything that police are supposed to stand for. "To protect and serve" becomes "protect each other and serve only oneself." In a way, you could hardly ask for a more fitting example of what our country continues to become: a populace and its leaders dedicated to making a fast buck by any means necessary and screw everybody else. Donald Trump for President, anyone?

The Seven Five, from IFC Films and running rather long for a documentary (104 minutes), becomes available on DVD this coming Tuesday, September 15. 

No comments: