Director: Tiller Russell (2015)
This funny, violent and arresting tale about corrupt cops in New York is the Goodfellas of police documentaries.
It follows the rise and fall of disgraced former cop Michael Dowd.
He talks, dresses and looks like one the wiseguys in director Martin Scorsese’s mob masterpiece. He even looks like Tony Darrow the actor who played Sonny Bunz, the owner of the ill-fated Bamboo Lounge. The actor was later charged with extortion.
In the early 1980’s, the 75th precinct was the most dangerous in the city, suffering 1000’s of shootings and 100’s of homicides a year. It’s described as ‘the land of f***’ by the officers’ who have to patrol it.
In extensive interviews Dowd admits to extortion, drug dealing, drug use, theft and estimates he has committed thousands of crimes as an officer.
There were bundles of cash and barrels of drugs alongside the kidnappings and murders.
Dowd claims he was taught to bend the rules in the Academy before he even graduated to the streets.
It was there he was taught the code of Omerta (silence) and a sense of brotherhood – which Dowd exploited to make breaking the law easier.
Poor levels of police pay and the daily grind contribute to corruption. As the criminals are so much more wealthy, crime is seen to pay.
A handsome and charismatic Domenican drug dealer called Diaz cheerfully provides a criminal insight. Dowd admits to providing a police escort for him.
With it’s use of freeze frames, fast cuts and rock soundtrack, there is a similar energy to Scorsese’s finest work.
Among the talking heads, court footage, crime scene reconstructions and some terrific contemporary footage, maps detail exactly where crimes were taking place, anchoring Dowd’s storytelling in reality.
Dowd never believed he would be caught, but ruefully acknowledges his attitude may have been a consequence of the copious amount of cocaine he was consuming.