The Seven Five DVD Review

     Actors: Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell
  • Director: Tiller Russell
  • Format: Multiple Formats, Color, NTSC, Widescreen
  • Language: English
  • Region: Region 1
  • Rated: R
  • Studio: MPI HOME VIDEO
  • DVD Release Date: September 15, 2015
  • Run Time: 104 minutes



            Documentaries have a bad reputation for being boring, and there are times that sitting through films filled with talking-head interviews that I have found reason to agree. Then there are the non-fiction films so captivating that it only feels like a matter of time before some wise filmmaker adapts the narrative into a screenplay. The Seven Five has enough excitement to match a Martin Scorsese crime film, somehow enhanced by the larger-than-life personalities of the actual men involved in the scandal. If Scorsese can make white collar crime seem exciting in The Wolf of Wall Street, the story of crooked New York City police officer Michael Dowd would be a walk in the park, although I can’t imagine many actors able to be as captivating as the man himself.


            The title and tagline of The Seven Five seem to insinuate that the film will be about police corruption in the department’s 75th Precinct, though a majority of the film focuses on Michael Dowd, a man labeled “The Dirtiest Cop Ever.” This turns much of the film into a character study, especially as the charismatic former police officer recalls the criminal events of his career. There are moments of defensiveness and regret, but even more fascinating is the way that Dowd’s face lights up in the retelling of his illegal activities. Many of the interviewees that knew Dowd during his reign of corruption remark that his personality was much more similar to a gangster than a cop, and this remains visible in the interviews with Dowd, despite the time that has passed and the price he paid for his crimes.


            The explosion of crime that arrived with crack cocaine in the 1980s provided the opportunity for corruption among many New York precincts, with the 75th developing a reputation as one of the worst after Dowd’s arrest in 1992. The time period provides enough material that director Tiller Russell occasionally becomes distracted with detours in the narrative, making the film feel slightly unfocused despite constantly remaining captivating. There are clear parallels to be found in the exposure of police corruption during that period and the racial discrimination which has recently been exposed in the police force of certain cities, even if these connections are never pointed out. The relevance of the material today comes from the hope provided by the historical uncovering of corruption in the 75th Precinct and other like it.


            Though there is some archival footage, both from police investigations and coverage of courtroom proceedings, a majority of the power in The Seven Five comes from the stories told through interview for the documentary. Despite most of the film simply being a recollection of events passed, this is still one of the best crime films I have seen in some time. The Seven Five seems sure to inspire a narrative film adaptation, just as the documentary When We Were Kings led to renewed interest in an Ali biopic. The main question remaining is whether or not this is necessary, or merely a sad statement about audience’s unwillingness to watch documentaries. The Seven Five doesn’t just lend itself to narrative filmmaking, but almost feels like the cinematic equivalent of a kickstarter for this idea.

            The DVD release includes a trailer as the only special feature.


    Entertainment Value: 9/10

    Quality of Filmmaking: 7.5/10

    Historical Significance:  6/10

    Special Features: 1.5/10

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