Tag Archives: Brooklyn

Cops and Robbers – The Seven Five Precinct

New York City's Police Precinct Seven Five
New York City’s Police Precinct Seven Five

In the early 1990s one Brooklyn gangster, Adam Diaz, sold a kilo of cocaine for $34,000. He sold roughly 300 kilos a week.

Despite operating in a crime-ridden chronically poor neighbourhood, despite the temptation presented by the vast sums of money involved, Diaz never feared his key shipments of drugs would be intercepted.

He had bought his own police escort.

Precinct Seven Five is a documentary telling the story of Michael Dowd, ‘New York’s Most Corrupt Cop’, whom Diaz paid $4000 a week for his services. And what services they were for a serving New York City police officer to provide to one of his precinct’s biggest criminals.

It’s a truly remarkable tale. Almost literally incredible. The truth seems so far-fetched that it would be almost impossible to get anyone to believe the events recounted over these 106 minutes if this was a summer action blockbuster.

Director Tiller Russell uses interwoven interviews with the real-life people to let them tell their own stories in their own words. Explanatory voice-overs are kept to a bare minimum and this makes for a hugely engaging experience for the viewer.

Russell is thoroughly blessed in that the cops and the robbers that form his cast of characters at the heart of the story are all larger than life, almost manically voluble and only rescued from verging into Soprano-esque stereotypes by virtue of the fact that we know they are all real people.

The result is riveting. By times funny, shocking and horrifying, it makes movies like ‘The Departed’ appear understated and restrained – yet these are real people and real events you’re forced to remind yourself every so often, not fictional caricatures.

Michael Dowd
Michael Dowd

Michael Dowd is the hinge on which everything else turns. He joined the NYPD almost straight after high school in the early 1980s. He had no great interest in the NYPD, he just happened to get his result from the Police Department before the Fire Department. The FDNY should thank its lucky stars it never secured the services of Mikey Dowd.

Charming, unscrupulous, up-for-anything ‘Mad Mikey’ cared mostly about being a good cop. He explains this as not being about good policing, about solving crime and catching criminals, but about always, absolutely always, backing up your fellow cops – no matter what.

As Dowd later explained to the Mollen Commission, which investigated corruption in the NYPD, cops who were not regarded as ‘good’ by their colleagues might find help slow in arriving when they needed it. In a precinct like the Seven Five in the 1980s and 1990s – described by cops and criminal alike as a ‘warzone’ with hundreds of reported incidents every day –  slow or no backup could be a death sentence.

This unbreakable code of silence, a blue omerta,  led many of the officers of the Seven Five precinct to serve and protect themselves, with Dowd as their exemplar.

He recalls on camera how he first left the straight and narrow by taking a few hundred dollars to look the other way during a routine traffic stop of a suspected drug dealer. Dowd was short on cash and a long way from pay-day.

Once he’d cottoned on to this new lucrative scheme, things soon escalated and expanded. Other cops refused to work with him until he struck up a connection with relative newcomer Kenny Eurell.

Eurell’s initial idealism soon faded as he was drawn into the murky world of Mike Dowd. Taking a one-off $100 dollars from one of Dowd’s schemes quickly gave way to fully fledged involvement in burglaries, then robbing drug dealers, and eventually working for them – principally Adam Diaz.

Dowd grew so comfortable in the criminal world and so far from his police oath that he set up his own drug dealing racket on Long Island.

Eventually that came led to his ultimate downfall. But that’s an outcome best and ably described on-screen by those who brought it about first-hand.

If you can at all get a chance to see this documentary, do.

It leaves fictional TV and movies in the halfpenny place by a country mile. Truth is not only stranger than fiction but far more dangerous.

The Drop

The Drop
The Drop – a thriller that does what it says on the tin

 

Eric Deeds doesn’t do whys.

Eric has a problem with Bob Saginowski (Tom Hardy).

Bob is a bartender at his cousin Marv’s (James Gandolfini in his last film) bar, conveniently called Cousin Marvs. He lives in the house he inherited from his parents and generally keeps himself to himself. Doesn’t say much, just gets on with things.

Until the night he finds a beaten and bleeding pup in a trash can.

Bob's life gets complicated
Bob’s life gets complicated

That night changes Bob’s life.

The trash can was in a front yard Bob was passing on his way back from a shift at the bar. It turns out the house is owned by a young woman called Nadia (Noomi Rapace). It takes Bob a while to find out her name. It takes him longer to convince her not to call the police and have him arrested.

Bob’s previously simple life rapidly becomes complicated on a number of fronts.

He promises Nadia to keep the pup, rather than giving it up to a dog shelter. Bob though doesn’t know anything about looking after a dog, so Nadia agrees to help.

And then up pops Eric Deeds (Mathias Schoenaerts). He turns up in the park as Bob and Nadia walk the dog. Then he knocks on Bob’s door and invites himself in. Compliments Bob on his dog. Or actually, his, Eric’s, dog he claims. Eric eventually leaves but it’s clear the number of bats in his belfry don’t add up to what they should.

Bob tells Marv what happened and enquires about Eric Deeds – who he is and what he’s like. Marv warns him that Deeds is seriously bad news, erratic unpredictable and given to violence. People in the neighbourhood believe he killed a man called Richie Whelan.

While Bob is mulling over these developments, more trouble drops into his world. Marv’s bar is robbed at closing time by two gun-wielding bandits who make off with $5000. Despite the name, Marv doesn’t own his bar. He used to. Back when he was a big name in the neighbourhood, a loan shark as well as bar owner, and want-to-be hoodlum and hardman.

Now though he’s been forced to hand the bar over to Chechen gangsters, and these days Marv answers to them. A loss of any kind is a black mark and the brutality that may be meted out in punishment unknowable.

Unless Marv and Bob can find the robbers and recover the money. And convince the Chechens that they had nothing to do with it. As well as the police detective (John  Ortiz) who believes they know more than they’re telling.

Happy Ending?
Happy Ending?

And all the time not forgetting that Eric Deeds still has a bone to pick with Bob. And Nadia. And possibly Marv.

The resolution of these strands is like watching speeding trains all bound for the one terminus, hurtling ever closer – something explosive almost certainly will happen, but even as the tensions build we’re not quite sure how.

Then again there may be switches to be thrown and twists to come that change the entire story as we (believe we) know it……..

Hugely enjoyable in a quiet, understated way and played out on a very human scale, with sympathy for and insight into the often unsuspected depths of lingering fears and frustrations, hopes and dreams we all accumulate as we move through life.