Gripping Seven Five a Nihilistic Look at Law Enforcement
During the early 1980s, New York City Police Officers Michael Dowd and Kenneth Eurell were patrolling the streets of the 75th Precinct, a notorious epicenter of drug abuse and crime. They would see what was going on, would witness the money changing hands and glean the type of power those running things behind the curtain had resting in the palm of their hands. While corruption in the police department was nothing new, under Dowd’s direction the pair would end up taking things to an entirely different level, their arrest in 1992 exposing a level of malfeasance so staggering it almost read like a piece of pulp crime novella fiction.
This is the story chronicled in Tiller Russell’s (Bad Boys of Summer) searing, if somewhat overly sensationalistic, documentary The Seven Five. Featuring interviews with just about everyone that matters, including Dowd and Eurell, the film attempts to probe into exactly what was going on and why, giving everything a down and dirty sheen that’s undoubtedly purposely reminiscent of early Scorsese. It’s compelling stuff, fascinating, even, but it also feels a little more like an audition reel for a potential feature than it does an insightful, intimately probing documentary, and that’s an issue Russell’s investigative opus sometimes has trouble overcoming.
But, wow can Dowd tell a story! The way he weaves his wheeling and dealing, how he documents all the wrongdoings he played the prime role in spearheading, it’s all incredible. Not only is he a magnetic, greasily fascinating criminal, he’s also a terrific storyteller, making all the abhorrent things he put into action feel insidiously exciting. It’s heady stuff, not all of it appealing, of course, but still thrilling and riveting in all the ways that matter, and as such the film comes remarkably close to being essential.
Close, but not entirely. The sensationalism does overwhelm on occasion, and there are more than a few moments where it feels like Russell is almost too enamored with his subject. He loves to play up the seedy nihilism Dowd and his cronies take something akin to gleeful relish in trafficking, and all of this grotesquerie becomes upsetting in a way that’s uncomforting, and not in a good way.
Not that it matters. Current events around the country in regards to police and how they’re choosing to serve and protect the communities they’re charged with overseeing, The Seven Five is an eye-opening descent into the horrors, tragedies and circumstances we task them to traverse through each and every day. While most are not like Dowd, the fact he’s not unique is a scary proposition, one that’s sadly made more and more clear each and every day.
Film Rating: 3 (out of 4)