It all began in a Brooklvn precinct known as The Seven Five in the late 1980s. Brooklyn, New York was the murder capital of America and ground zero for the crack cocaine epidemic. One man led his crew on a rampage through the streets of East New York, robbing drug dealers at gunpoint, stealing countless kilos of cocaine and hundreds of thousands dollars in cash. His name was Officer Michael Dowd, a New York City cop, and his arrest in 1992 led to the largest police corruption scandal in New York City history. This is his story.
Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell, Walter Yurkiw, Chickie, Dori Eurell
Bad Cop, Worse Cop
- Precinct Seven Five review by Count Otto Black
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Ever since they started selling Batman to a more mature audience, DC have regularly featured him in stories where he exposes the exaggeratedly hideous corruption festering in the heart of the Gotham City Police Department. This film gives you a pretty good idea what the GCPD would be like without Batman. Unfortunately, it's a documentary, so no fictional Dark Knight was going to clean house for the NYPD. And since the unofficial code these cops lived by meant that the very worst thing you could possibly do was to rat on a fellow officer, no matter what he'd done, it took them quite a while to get round to doing it themselves.
If this was fiction, it would be almost unbelievable, since the plot is almost identical to that of "Goodfellas", only with the mafiosi replaced by horribly bent coppers. It would also be a cracking good movie, apart from an ending which isn't quite as dramatic as it should have been, and was in fact supposed to be, because real life doesn't necessarily follow the rules of a Hollywood script. As a documentary, it isn't very visual, consisting as it does almost entirely of talking heads. It would have worked nearly as well on the radio, and that's a big failing for a movie. But otherwise it's an extraordinary film. The extent to which the main characters (none of these people are portrayed by actors - they're all real) fell from grace and ended up doing the exact opposite of what cops are supposed to do is simply jaw-dropping, and weirdly compelling.
Ken Eurell, a weak man who candidly admits that once he started down the slippery slope, greed took over and however much money he illicitly ended up with, "it was never enough", is the ex-cop who didn't ever quite manage to persuade his conscience to quit bugging him, though the circumstances under which he "reformed" weren't exactly heroic. Michael Dowd apparently never had a conscience. His unconvincing attempts to sound remorseful somehow always end up being all about himself, and he gives the distinct impression that what he really regrets is being caught. But his matter-of-fact chronicle of what a terrible person he became is bizarrely fascinating, even if he probably is an actual psychopath (or perhaps for that very reason).
And the vain, stupid man-child of a crime-boss who inexplicably agreed to appear on camera is simultaneously such a vile excuse for a human being that you really wish Batman could somehow exist after all just to give him a proper kicking, and blackly humorous living proof of the banality of evil. I actually laughed out loud when he revealed that, although he of course used to own a flashy custom pimpmobile with a massively excessive sound-system, not being black, he didn't like all that gangsta rap shit, so he used to cruise the 'hood blasting out Julio Iglesias and Bryan Adams.
A fascinating journey through greed, corruption and a downward spiral of questionable morality, Precinct Seven Five is one of those films deeply down you wish weren’t true, only to succumb to melancholy and (multiple) existential crises when you realize it actually is.
Precinct Seven Five is the 75th precinct in Brooklyn, New York – a place where instead of justice reigning supreme – officers had to employ their own sets of values different from their teachings at the academy (if one can say so). In order for officers to survive in such harsh conditions as in the area around precinct 75 (a notoriously bad neighborhood), they had willingly chosen to overlook certain malpractices by their fellow comrades. What followed afterwards is meticulously depicted in the film, through real-life disturbing photographs, eye witness testimonies, interviews and archive footage that’re nothing short of giving you the real-life chills.
The structure consists of rookie cop Ken Eurell entering the belly of the beast and partnering up with a certain veteran cop named Michael Dowd; little did he knew at that point what dangers awaited him on the other side.
Boiling down to sheer will of surviving, it’s really hard to review Precinct Seven Five without giving too much of the major plot points it contains. To describe it best would probably mean to unravel everything in the movie – as it successively happened – right toward the very end (of structure and otherwise).
What director Tiller Russell does however, is mixing the classical storytelling with retrospection and cathartic revelations (via Dowd’s interview at a commission), while it slowly backs up the narration with visual cues of the same crimes Dowd’s accused of. In a world of linear narration and in-your-face dialog, Tiller Russell employs simple, yet effective means to keep the story from becoming one of your everyday depressing documentaries (although the former still rings true for this one).
Slowly and gradually and our little story evolves into something even the craziest and most vivid of visionary crime novelists wouldn’t dare to think about, yet write on the subject. Ken Eurell gets deeply intertwined in the dark side of the NYPD, along with Dowd, who, at this point, would sell his own kidneys in order to make a living out of it all. Drugs, violence and setting up civilian citizens are just part of the repertoire of this corrupted NYPD contingent, and who can blame them: times in Precinct Seven Five are getting tougher by and large.
To wrap it up: Precinct Seven Five is a stunning testimony of nihilistic proportions, where one sees the ones who swore to protect and serve doing quite the opposite of their duties – reaching a downward spiral of woeful events and tragic conclusions.
Sometimes I’m just glad documentaries like this are still being made to this day.