Tagged Casino

The Seven Five is a Microcosm of America’s Police Problem

The Seven Five. 2014. Directed by Tiller Russell.
Starring (as themselves) Michael Dowd, Ken Eurell, Walter Yurkiw, Chickie, Dori Eurell.

★★★★★
Precinct-Seven-Five-UK-Quad-Poster To start this review, I wanted to give a bit of personal insight into my view on police.
Firstly, I have two family members, close cousins, who are both officers here in St. John’s, Newfoundland – for those who don’t know, Newfoundland is a province on the far east coast of Canada. One of them is a new officer, the other now involved with Major Crimes from homicide to whatever else. So, I can’t say that all officers are bad. Anyone smart should know they are not.
However, second of all, I’ve had a couple experiences with police officers, as a younger man in my teen years, which now as a 30-year old I see in a different light. There is a high room for error in law enforcement, simply due to the fact that as an officer of the law you are dealing in the lives of human beings. What you do, or don’t do, can either negatively or positively affect the life of someone you take into custody/members of a perpetrator or victim’s family/et cetera. There are huge repercussions when it comes to an officer not doing their job correctly, and as we see so much today in the news coming out of America there are deadly effects when police override the law and surpass it because of their lust for power. An enormous responsibility rides on the shoulders of the police – many willingly put themselves in harm’s way to protect us from the actual dangerous elements of society, then in opposition too many seem to also have no problem putting innocent/unarmed(etc) citizens in the way of harm or outright have no problem doing those same citizens harm themselves. When the responsibility is shirked, it is not the same as even an insurance agent messing up some forms and leaving a customer without proper coverage; incompetent and downright criminal police work comes with a hefty, fatal price in many situations.
QrLKvelTFB The Seven Five, directed by Tiller Russell, is the epic tale of police corruption in the seventy-fifth precinct out of New York when Michael Dowd was in uniform there. An insanely criminal lawman, Dowd seemed to infect everyone around him, including the rookies and other naive cops coming into the job. It was as if, for a time, Dowd became the centre of corruption in the entirety of the NYPD.
Through a number of talking head interviews, including Dowd himself, Russell brings us through a bunch of stories that emphasize how deep and devious the corruption went.
What began as a bit of cash, then on to thousands upon thousands of dollars, soon became a devil’s deal with drugs, guns, and murder to boot. Dowd, as we see through the documentary’s runtime, evolves from a smalltime crooked cop on the beat to, essentially, a drug dealer as vicious as any other man selling drugs on the street. From a hindsight perspective, Tiller Russell takes us through the names, the faces, the situations which brought Michael Dowd down the dark roads he took and where everyone has ended up today.

Basically, Michael Dowd is the literal representation of the criminal cop. I mean, he is the epitome of the description, he makes the whole documentary feel like a Martin Scorsese film. Sometimes he says things that are darkly priceless, maybe similar to something Ray Liotta or Joe Pesci might spit out. At times, he actually strikes me more like Lester Diamond from Casino simply because he’s a god damn nutter. It’s sick, but the way in which he basically corralled an entire dirty ring of cops is villainously smart.
But naturally things didn’t last forever for Mike. If they did, he certainly wouldn’t have been on camera telling us his darkest confessions of the nasty business he got into while supposedly policing the streets.
10425671.0One of my favourite pieces to The Seven Five is the stuff with Adam Diaz.
What can we say about Mr. Diaz? He loves Bryan Adams and sold tons of drugs. Best of all, he sold them out of a grocery store. His operation was supremely slick. With some tips from ole Officer Dowd, the store could have everything looking proper, no drugs on the premises, and nothing could be said – like Diaz himself relates, even if someone snitched and said they were there buying drugs the week before, what did it matter? Who cares where they were or went or who they saw, what they bought? Didn’t matter a pinch. Because as Diaz says, there were no drugs – “I sell groceries!
In the year 1987, one kilo of cocaine was equal to about $34,000. Diaz, 20 years old, was selling 300 kilos a week, bringing in hundreds of millions a year.
The reason Michael Dowd and Adam Diaz became as close as they were was due to when Dowd gave Diaz a tip which saved the dealer half a million dollars. A raid was on the way, which Dowd headed off with the tip, and this proved to Diaz this was his man.

So we can see how it wasn’t simply a bunch of crooked cops, Dowd was involved with true criminal organizations, such as the Diaz Organization which had its own ties to further criminal entities. It’s amazing to watch how the corruption basically leaks out, like an oil spill milking thick out of a barrel and spreading over the entire city of New York. Sad that while so many people needed help, some criminals could’ve been taken off the streets, Dowd and Ken Eurell, his unfortunate partner that was near hypnotized by Dowd, and the other corrupt officers were just feeding their egos, their bank accounts, and sure, their families.
But it’s funny, nowadays in America, and back then certainly, we’re less willing to indict cops as a society overall than we are to shit all over people in unions. And basically, these officers, headed by the insanity of Michael Dowd, went into a union-like situation – the big argument for corruption is “They don’t pay me enough for the danger of the job I’m doing” – and instead of striking, instead of fighting for higher wages and trying to negotiate, they went above and beyond any normal reactions straight into using the leverage and power of their positions to commit criminal acts; acts they were arresting others for committing, all at the very same time.
Precinct-Seven-Five-2Michael Dowd: “It wasn’t like you were hurtin’ people. You were hurtin’ fucking scumbag drug dealers.
WP-AS2957_MW-2With every day that passes by in America, there seems to be another incident where unarmed people – most if not all are black – get murdered by the police. Straight up. So many news stories breaking, each week, where another black man or black woman is taken down, either by police in the field or in custody. It’s disturbing. Feels like nothing has really changed, as we watch Dowd during his interviews and the tapes of his testimonies – sure, this is not about racism, but it’s above all about the corruption of power. The same thing happens today. We see at various points throughout this documentary how a lot of the negative behaviour some police officers come to display is bred into them through senior ranking officers, detectives, et cetera, the rookies are working under. Much like hate and racism/sexism is learned behaviour often stemming from the family one grows up in, or the parent figures one is raised by, the same goes for this corrupt behaviour in police officers; much of that comes out of learned and encouraged behaviour.
08SEVENFIVE2-articleLargeI don’t want to say too much else about the documentary, much of it is information you need to hear firsthand.
For me, The Seven Five is a 5 out of 5 star documentary film. It outlines the corruption of the time in the NYPD so perfectly, examining one of the most corrupt police officers to have ever lived. Michael Dowd is a truly disturbing, bad dude when it comes down to it. The quote above shows that, infinitely. People like to think there’s a need for that blanket statement – that all drug dealers are human garbage, every one of them. Unfortunately, you just can’t say that. Especially if you’re an officer of the law, not simply because you should be objective at times as to avoid collaring the wrong suspects and leading yourself into trouble, but most of all it can lead to the detrimental thinking in police officers such as Dowd: it leads to the illusion of power. It leads people like this man to believing that they are truly above someone else on the evolutionary scale, as if they’re the perfect example of Charles Dawin and the idea of Survival of the Fittest – the dealers, the crackheads, all of them are weak and therefore ought to be weeded out. In a microcosm, this is the thinking which leads people to believe the ideologies of leaders like Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and so on.

You should see this documentary. One of the better recent crime docs to come out. Especially if you’re interested in police corruption, civil rights, and other similar subjects. I highly recommend this. Not only interesting, The Seven Five is a smooth and flowing documentary that keeps the audience engaged, provides a ton of information, and even gives us a few truly dark and disturbing moments when it comes to the crime underworld and corrupt cops.
Check it out, let me know what you think in the comment section below!

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 7: “Black Maps and Motel Rooms”
Directed by Daniel Attias (Ray DonovanBloodlineMasters of SexHomelandThe Killing)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Omega Station” – click here
* For a review of the previous episode, “Church in Ruins” – click here

DISCLAIMER: THIS IS SPOILER FILLED! BIG TIME! HUGE EVENTS GET SPOILED AT THE END SO IF YOU HAVE NOT SEEN THIS DON’T READ IT ALL OR ELSE YOU’LL BE RUINED!
IMG_0254 IMG_0255In the penultimate episode True Detective‘s polarizing second season, Ani Bezzerides (Rachel McAdams) is coming down off the Molly she was given at the weird sex party last episode. She’s in a motel room with Ray Velcoro (Colin Farrell), as Detective Woodrugh (Taylor Kitsch) is in another with the missing girl they retrieved from the fucked up white rich guy orgy.
Ray: “Want me to roll a joint?
Ani says she might have even went looking for it – killing that man with her knife – that she’d been waiting her whole life for something like that.
While trying to shake the buzz off, Ani relapses back to the trauma when she was young. She mentions that ‘they’ found her as she came out of the woods. Ray is confused. Then Ani gets in his lap and starts kissing him, rubbing him up, but Ray tries to be a big man.
Ray: “You’re too far out of my league anyway
I love it because even in the most serious of moments, Ray tries to tone things down with humour. Juxtaposed with the scenes between him and Ani later, this is Ray making a good decision not to pursue things any further; not only is it a bad idea, to make matters worse Ani is still under the influence of the drugs.
IMG_0257 IMG_0258 IMG_0260Things get going pretty damn quick. No letting up from the last episode and its tense action sequence at the end.
Now Woodrugh is receiving texts with pictures of him and his old army buddy, the one he’s sort of sweet on but won’t admit. He’s clearly shaken out of the blue, Ray knows there’s something not quite right. I’ve been waiting for pictures of Paul’s extracurricular denial to start coming out – ever since Detective Teague Dixon (W. Earl Brown) was snapping with his camera when the whole subplot with Paul/his friend began.

Paul’s pregnant, soon-to-be wife Emily (Adria Arjona) received a call saying “Ask Paul about the pictures“.
Emily: “Why did you get with me? Why did you ask me out?
All Paul can muster up to say is: “I was just tryin’ to be a good man
Emily: “Well you don’t try right
IMG_0263He’s got his mother and his pregnant fiancee in a motel room, pretending that it’s all got to do with beef over an undercover job he’d been working. There is a scary feeling to all of this with Paul. He is frenzied, cracking up like the masks he keeps putting on, so many of them, are all getting bound up, twisted, and ready to fall to pieces.
IMG_0261 IMG_0262All the while, Frank Semyon (Vince Vaughn) is playing cards with himself. Of course he’s the dealer, all the invisible people being dealt hands are just being controlled by him. It’s a perfect metaphor for how Frank’s life is, or at least how he would like it to be/seem. His wife Jordan (Kelly Reilly) makes an obvious poker assertion that pertains to their life: “We could just walk away from the table“. The two of them are still rocky, but she is always there for him; loyal as ever, though, every bit stern.
Then Ray shows up: “I, uh… had a bit of a strange night.
IMG_0264Of course, Ani used her sister Athena’s (Leven Rambin) name at the party, so the people there might possibly come for her. I knew this would happen as soon as Ani gave the name Athena before she got on the bus last episode.
Ani: “Maybe – and this is just a thought – maybe you were put on this Earth for more than fucking
Vera: “Everything is fucking
Though Ani wants to help her, the previously missing girl that she found at the party Vera (Miranda Rae Mayo) seems to not want any help at all. She says she has a good life, and doesn’t need anybody talking to her condescending-like, acting as if she needs to be saved. Ani struggles against it, but yet there seems to be a glimmer in her eyes, or a dulling more like it, that believes what Vera says.
IMG_0266Frank and his once main man Blake Churchman (Christopher James Baker) – the one Ray followed to find he was helping Dr. Pitlor (Rick Springfield) pimp girls out over to Osip Agronov (Timothy V. Murphy) – have a real rough confrontation. It’s clear, though, that Frank is a much tougher piece of work than meek little Blake. A bit of blood and skin later, Frank has a few answers. Only a few, though. Frank needs, wants, answers about Caspere, but nobody seems to know who did him. Outside of that, Frank discovers that people are trying to take everything away from him essentially. He’s just about been a lone wolf the whole time, outside of a couple helping hands; those are few and far between.
IMG_0267 IMG_0265At first, Blake is allowed to live for the time being at the mention of money. That doesn’t last long: Frank gives Blake the ole Reservoir Dogs gutshot and lets him bleed out on the carpet. Pretty vicious on his part, but as he said he wanted to watch Blake’s lights go out.

Modern medicine man, or 1960s Encino Man, Eliot Bezzerides (David Morse) shows up again.
He and Ani have a serious chat about who took her away – Eliot says he wandered the forest four days after what happened to her. We get some tiny bits of background about Eliot, little pieces. Nice to fill in at least small cracks here. We don’t need a huge amount of exposition. I think Nic Pizzolatto really does well with these sorts of things; wet the beak, don’t give us too much but enough we can chew on.
Eliot: “God damn everything
Ani: “That’s what I say
IMG_0269 IMG_0270Because of the last episode and the events at the party – as well as Ray finding the contact for their little off the books investigation District Attorney Katherine Davis (Michael Hyatt) murdered in her car – Ani and the rest are going into protective mode. Everyone in Ani’s family is going into hiding. There’s an epic sense to things, as if the air is electric, and the tension has really started to mount. I predict the last episode will be highly explosive and thoroughly satisfying. That’s just me, who knows.
She, Ray, and Paul close in more on the diamonds in the pictures they found, from the pawn shop, the ones tied with Dixon somehow. They start to sew up some things involving Ben Caspere and Mayor Chessani, the whole lot.
IMG_0272 IMG_0273 IMG_0274Paul meets his friend from the army Miguel (Gabriel Luna), the one from those torrid night(s) together, and it turns out things with Black Mountain, or a bigger group, are the reason they’ve run into one another again and gotten back in touch. He leads Woodrugh to a stairwell, down into the darkness, then they’re gone for the moment. The tension gets thick.
Once Paul is brought downstairs, out comes Police Chief Holloway (Afemo Omilami) who explains they found pictures in Dixon’s apartment after he died, and they know Paul has documents they need. Incredibly sinister moment, I found. Perfectly executed. I didn’t see this scene coming, though, loved every last second.
Paul begins to try and get himself out, giving up Ani and Ray saying he couldn’t give a shit about them. That’s disappointing to say the least. Only he grabs Holloway, wrestles away his gun and puts it to the man’s head. Woodrugh manages to get away through the underground tunnels, darkness covering all in sight. The military men that were with Holloway and Miguel follow him, trying to make sure he does not escape.

Frank: “Here we are – under the bright lights
There’s no doubt, after this scene between Frank and Jordan as she witnesses the dead body of Blake on the floor in her husband’s office, that the two of them are as close as they can possibly get. She affirms “I love you” and asks what she can do. Frank, like Ani, is sending those he loves into hiding.
He is preparing himself – for fight, or flight?
IMG_0271Frank – apparently – is setting fire to the casino. Because why not? he’s got some ideas about what to do now that he knows everyone is out to get him. He looks calm, collected as he walks away from the smoking building. Slick, badass stuff from Frank.
Turns out, he’s setting fire to it all. Everything. As far as Frank is concerned, his whole life is going up in smoke anyways. Might as well set fire to the lot of it.
IMG_0277 IMG_0280My favourite scene of this episode is just about at ten minutes left, when Ray and Ani are talking with one another at the motel. They’re both trying to talk anyways, but not every little thing comes out. Though, Ray does acknowledge he knows that something happened to Ani, somewhere along the line, whatever it was – she replies that she doesn’t like to talk about it. He tells her it’s what he admires most about her. There’s just such an incredible exchange between two gifted actors. So much ability going on that it blows my mind. Such subtly passionate, quiet moments without any real physical contact outside of the touch of their hands; I was just WOW’d by the scene. Powerful stuff, in my opinion. Both Farrell and McAdams have been doing spot-on jobs this season with their characters. I hope, regardless of how others feel about the story/plot, people recognize how great the acting has been all around.
These are two broken souls trying to find someone as broken as themselves to whom they can reach out.

Ray: “Do you miss it?
Ani: “What?
Ray: “Anything?
IMG_0281 IMG_0282SPOILER ALERT! HERE THERE BY SPOILERS!
Paul ends up blasting his way out of the tunnels, his friend and gay lover Miguel is shot in the process. This was an awesome action scene, with a lot of suspense. Finally, we get to see Woodrugh climb up out of the tunnel and away from the gunfire, back to some semblance of safety. For awhile there I honestly did not see him coming out of that sticky situation. He has some true guts. I was sure, even when I first saw Miguel waiting for him, there was about to be something nasty happen to Detective Woodrugh. Glad that I was wrong on that part.
IMG_0283A great piece of music from the score in Season One comes back here, as we see brief images of Ray and Ani together (nothing gratuitous – tasteful stuff I must say), Paul running away from the scene behind him.

Then the kicker….

MORE SPOILERS! HUGE HUGE SPOILERS AHEAD!
Heroic Paul Woodrugh is gunned down, from behind no less, then shot dead by Lieutenant Kevin Burris (James Frain) who runs off into a car, speeding away.
IMG_0284 IMG_0285 IMG_0287 IMG_0288 IMG_0289 IMG_0292 IMG_0291 IMG_0295Unlike Ray Velcoro’s apparent death at the end of “Night Finds You”, this one is not like that at all. Paul is completely finished. Done for. Goodbye, Woodrugh. Even though he was so knotted up as a person, I cannot say I wanted to see him go. Especially not like that. It’s so sad that he was on the phone with Ray before Miguel brought him down to that basement. Right on the cusp of telling Velcoro everything, maybe to get some help with it all. True tragedy.

Not only that, we glimpse how deep the law enforcement rabbit hole truly goes with the murder of Paul Woodrugh.

What a hard hitting episode. Solid writing, lots of tragedy, heart, and just tons of movement in the plot. Dig it – hard.
Next week, we’re going to see “Omega Station”, and this will truly be the beginning of the end.
I can’t wait to see what will happen after the fallout from Detective Woodrugh’s death, where Ani and Ray will go as professionals after their night together plus how they’ll punish themselves no doubt for not being there for Paul, and how Frank is going to react/what he’ll do to those who have been taking his lifeblood away from him.
Stay tuned and we’ll see how everything goes down in the finale of True Detective Season 2!

True Detective – Season 2, Episode 1: The Western Book of the Dead

HBO’s True Detective
Season 2, Episode 1:
“The Western Book of the Dead”
Directed by Justin Lin (Better Luck Tomorrow)
Written by Nic Pizzolatto

* For a review of the next episode, “Night Finds You” – click here
Picture 2To start, this is NOT a repeat of True Detective True Detective Season 1 – the show is trying to do a new story, new characters, the whole shebang. Of course the whole thing is still very existential, regardless if Rust Cohle is not spouting out Nietzsche rehashes and what not [which I loved but come on – they weren’t anything groundbreakingly new outside of philosophical circles]. I mean, Colin Farrell’s low-down-and-dirty Ray Velcoro already gave the beauty line “We get the world we deserve” in the second episode of this season, so there is definitely still an existential element kicking around inside of Nic Pizzolatto’s second season. However, this time around there’s much of a demon-within type of vibe going. Whereas the police detectives Rust Cohle and Marty Hart were truly trying to serve justice for the sake of the victims, all those poor young girls taken and killed by vicious, hateful men, the second season of True Detective seems to be focusing on how some of those same police get lost along the way, how they bend the law to work for them, and even though they’re ultimately trying to do good, they end up doing a lot of bad along the way.
Picture 1Starting off, we get to see Ray Velcoro [Farrell]. His tale is a rough one – his wife was raped, they never found the attacker, and neither she nor her now ex-husband Ray know if their boy is his or not. Certainly Ray does the true blood thing to do: he raises the kid as his own. He doesn’t want to know anything about DNA, he just wants his son to be his son. Problem is ole Ray has vices – the drink and the drugs – and his temper is fierce. Like anyone, Ray wanted revenge for what happened to his wife, and as an officer of the law, he naturally felt stuck when even the law let him down. In comes Frank Semyon [Vaughn] who facilitates the revenge Velcoro needs by tracking down the man responsible, which coincides with Ray’s wife and her statement. This puts Ray deep in with Semyon, who uses him as a man on the inside, and as Ray climbs the ranks to detective, of course Frank reaps the benefits.
I think Ray is going to be one of the most interesting of the bunch in this season. There’s a scene involving Ray and a kid who bullies his son at school, plus the boy’s father, which really takes you from “Okay, Ray is a normal guy in a bad situation” to “Wow, Ray is a bad dude”. Even while you side with him, he takes things much too far. Not hard to see the booze and the cocaine, and the more booze, doesn’t help his natural temperament. At the end of the tunnel, for Ray I see a bit of redemption. Now, whether or not Ray will have to die for this, it is way too soon to tell [even in light of Episode Two’s events]. We will see.
Picture 3Next is Rachel McAdams as Detective Ani [Antigone] Bezzerides who has more than her fair share of issues, as well. First, her estranged father Eliot [David Morse] is a New Age guru-type who runs a sort of 1960s style institute or commune, and clearly is a narcissist. Then her sister, Athena, is a webcam girl doing porn who is off her medication and living free. Not to mention the fact their father named both her and her sister Antigone and Athena. So, Ani drinks, gambles, and raids houses to find out where her sister is when she feels like it. Also, her boyfriend is not exactly the sexually adventurous type when Ani clearly surprises him with something in the bedroom he couldn’t handle straight away. She is a dominant woman; she carries knives all over her, making clear in the next episode this is because she has no illusions about certain female-male situations where she will be physically smaller than a larger man in which the knives will come more than in handy. There is no doubt the years living in the cult with daddy brought on issues, most likely from some kind of abuse, but we can never be sure. Perhaps she’s just a smart, cautious woman who has seen too much. Either way, I’m excited this season has a lead female character and one who is also in the police. Offers a great new perspective for the show.
Picture 9Officer Paul Woodrugh [Taylor Kitsch] is another interesting character. Clearly Paul is a troubled man. He worked for Black Mountain Security in Iraq, obviously mimicking a similarly named military contractor, and has issues from what he calls “the desert”. It isn’t hard to see Woodrugh has issues with his sexuality; he sneaks a blue pill while claiming to be showering and taking far longer than necessary before trying to have sex with his girlfriend, then when she is going down on him Paul looks off into space as if troubled, maybe trying to concentrate so that he’s able to get an erection. This becomes even more clear in the second episode with a comment he makes to another detective. Furthermore, Paul obviously has deeper issues – he speeds out on the highway on his motorcycle, flicking off the headlight and rushing through the darkness, almost daring death to come and get him. I can’t wait to see more of him. Kitsch is a talent, and I don’t care what anyone says. Given the right material with this character I can see Kitsch doing excellent work this season.
Picture 4Vince Vaughn as Frank Semyon spit out the worst line by far of the entire show since the first series began, along the lines of “don’t do anything out of hunger – not even eating”. Now I’ll give it to you – some of Rust Cohle’s lines, which personally I loved, were equally batty, but Matthew McConaughey was able to let them roll off his tongue and out of his mouth like they were natural to that character. Vaughn is good, I dig him, even as Semyon. I just didn’t dig that line. I can buy Vaughn as that character, totally, because he isn’t an outright psychotic gangster type like something out of Goodfellas with Henry Hill’s outbursts or the violence of Joe Pesci – I buy Vaughn as a collected, calm business sort of crook, and sure, he’s a big guy, I bet he can lay hands. Mainly, I think his attitude suits the part. However, that line in his mouth sounded like garbage. Moving past that point, Vaughn was great, and he does the dark/brooding thing well. Given more time the character of Frank will grow on people, I believe.
Picture 5Mainly people need to lay off this season, and forget about the first, in the sense that this is an anthologized show. There is no continuity other than it involves police work; that’s it. Once again, there are existential themes at play here, heavily. We just need to keep in mind – existential doesn’t mean that people have to constantly spout philosophical musings. That was a character Pizzolatto used, and it worked. This season is different. Existentialism has to do with human beings, the experience of existence and reality, and the touch of humans on existence. So we’re going to see how human beings deal with their terrible inner demons, and this season we’re going to see more about the abuse of power from the perspective of those abusing it mainly instead of solely from the perspective of those outside and looking in. The police here are good police, but they toe a dangerous lines, more so than anything Rust Cohle did in Season One. I can’t wait for the next episode.