The Seven Five was the first of two from last night’s session of the Arthouse Film Festival. It’s a documentary detailing corruption in the NYPD in the 1980s. It follows the case of Michael Dowd and Ken Eurell, officers in the 75th precinct of Brooklyn.
This part of Brooklyn was tough, claiming hundreds of murders in the 80s. There was a lot of decay in the city’s infrastructure, and people were finding ways to survive, many of which included less-than-legal means. Corruption is rampant within the police, all across the city. Dowd, and more than a few officers at the 75th, decide that they can earn more than just their paycheck by ‘other means’, such as skimming off the top of any money and drugs confiscated during all the busts that were occurring.
The documentary starts with Michael Dowd and his partner, Ken Eurell. There’re rumors about Dowd, and Eurell doesn’t want to be paired with him. There’s a mistrust between Michael and Ken, but over time, they build a bond that makes them thick as thieves. Trust between officers, especially partners, is vital to their ability to skim and steal. Their bond builds over time. Eventually, they decide they can make more money by going to the source – the druglords themselves. Initially, they reach out to the owner of a car audio shop that works on the expensive cars owned by the criminal element, and through him, make contact. They offer ‘protection’ services, meaning that they’ll tip off the people who run the storefronts where drug sales are taking place, for a fee. They’ll also work to bring down the competition, thus guaranteeing stability. Information is passed, both ways, and money changes hands.
Michael and Ken get over confident. They live it up on the extra income. Both are married and have children, so they share the wealth. Then involve other officers and former officers in their doings. They get bolder and become careless. The stories they tell were better, in my opinion, than some of the stories you hear in Scorcese movies, but not as lucrative.
Speaking of Scorcese, even though this is a documentary, it was told in Scorcese’s signature style, as much as a documentary could be. Vintage footage is used, and events unfold. Internal Affairs and the DEA are involved in the film, and their stories are told from the participants. It’s a very compelling story, and I do recommend it.
Here’s a link to the official Teaser Trailer for the movie.
Some spoilers of the outcome are discussed below, so you can stop reading if you don’t want to see them.
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As a follow-on to the screening, the host, Chuck Rose, brought a special guest – Michael Dowd. He was arrested, and served 10 1/2 years in federal prison, and survived. The interview was quite strange, as I think everyone in the audience was a little taken aback by his presence. He claimed the documentary was mostly true, but left out key components. He felt the story made him more of a mastermind than he actually was, and his partner Ken shared more of the guilt. You got the sense that he felt Ken should have suffered as much as he, but didn’t. He indicated he has realized the error of his ways, but audience members were not inclined to believe him. I’m not sure if I was, either. His life was forever changed by all this, and it’s up to him to demonstrate that he’s on the right path, now. His said his decision to participate in the documentary was so he could indicate how criminals like him could be caught. The documentary was originally going to be about the Mollen Commission, which was formed after Dowd was arrested to investigate corruption in the NYPD. After initially speaking to Dowd, the filmmakers realized they should do the story of the downfall of the 75th precinct instead, so that’s what this became.
Dowd also indicated that he’s in the process of writing a book about his experiences, which should clear up a few things.
Only time will tell.