Top 20 Films of 2015 3 335


So it’s that time again where everyone takes a look back at the year that was and comes up with their favourites. Although it had its fair share of crap, as ever, for the most part this was a pretty damn good year for film in my eyes, from small films that broke out to become big hits to massive blockbusters that surprised with depth and wit.

Now before I get to the cream of the crop, I just wanna go over some of the films that didn’t quite make the list but I loved/liked a lot nonetheless:

There was Todd Haynes’ Carol, a sumptuous and achingly romantic film about forbidden love in the 1950s; Snowtown and Assassin’s Creed director Justin Kurzel put his definitive, haunting mark on Macbeth; and Charlotte Rampling devastated with her stunning performance in the understated yet powerful 45 Years.

The comedy genre was bolstered this year by a triple whammy of films. There was Spy, the hilarious and surprisingly action-packed hit in which The Stath supremely stole the show in self-mocking fashion; Trainwreck saw Amy Schumer prove she can do comedy just as well on the big-screen as on stage and on TV; and finally The Lady in the Van, the thoroughly British story of an essentially homeless woman who stayed in Alan Bennett’s driveway for a decade and half – Dame Maggie Smith has rarely been better.

One of the more underrated films of the past 12 months for me was A Most Violent Year. It was dismissed by some as too serious and like so many other New York-set crime movies but there was a lot of very interesting things going on in that film about the corruption of power and where that leaves someone trying to do good while also providing a couple of the year’s tensest sequences. Keeping the underrated and crime line going, I thought The Voices was a wickedly dark and very funny little movie with Ryan Reynolds on top form, proving he’s much better in this sort of role rather than being tied to the glossy A-list stuff his good looks suggest.

Going down the more oddball route there was A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence, a bizarre segmented film that featured sequences about travelling joke prop salesman and a monkey being scientifically tested in shackles, among others – a surreal Monty Python-esque treat. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night took the vampire horror subgenre and turned it on its head with something that was deeply unnerving and visually striking in its other-worldliness. And Tangerine proved that it doesn’t matter if you have a multi-million dollar camera or an iPhone, as long as you’ve got talented actors and a sharp sense of wit you can make something special.

There were others that impressed me this year including Studio Ghibli’s gorgeous A Tale of Princess Kaguya, Kenneth Branagh’s pleasingly theatrical Cinderella and the sweetly acerbic Grandma, with an irrestistable performance by the great Lily Tomlin. The list could go on for days but I think that’ll do for the runners up…

So without much further ado, here’s my top 20 films of 2015.

Note: As always the list adheres to the UK release schedule so films that may have been 2014 for many were early 2015 for us. Also, that means films like Spotlight, The Danish Girl, Joy, Creed, and Room aren’t included at all because they’re not out until early 2016 here.


20. Sicario

We’ve seen this sort of Mexican drug cartel thriller before but director Denis Villeneuve took that familiar set-up and turned into one of the tensest, most dread-filled and most unpredictable films of the year with Emily Blunt and Benicio del Toro on top form.


19. Amy

I’m not exactly a great fan of Amy Winehouse’s music, nor do I know anything about her life beyond the obvious tabloid stuff, but I found this to be an insightful, complex and empathetic portrait of her. FULL REVIEW HERE


18. Straight Outta Compton

Rap music is really not my thing so colour me surprised how much I enjoyed this biopic. A bold film with a ferocious sensibility and absolutely brimming with energy. It contains some of the best music performance scenes in recent memory.


17. Beasts of No Nation

Cary Fukunaga takes a brave, no holds barred approach to telling a powerful story, admirably never skimping on the brutal details of what really happens. Idris Elba is great but newcomer Abraham Attah is a revelation.


16. The Martian

Matt Damon is great in an intelligent, thrilling and surprisingly funny film that’s more “sci-fa” than sci-fi and one that has all the hallmarks of a modern classic. Ridley Scott’s best film in years, no question.


15. While We’re Young

I’m a big fan of Noah Baumbach anyway but this might be his finest effort for me. It’s breezily enjoyable, filled with wonderfully drawn characters, but has some very meaningful things to say about getting older and acting your age. FULL REVIEW HERE


14. Love & Mercy

Paul Dano and John Cusack wonderfully play two sides of the same coin that is Brian Wilson in a multi-layered film full of heart, tenderness and a genuine reverence for The Beach Boys music that it presents. FULL REVIEW HERE


13. Brooklyn

Saoirse Ronan gives perhaps the finest performance of any actress this year in an affectionate, poignant, endearing, effortlessly enjoyable film that so brilliantly hits on the nerve of nostalgic longing people have for their homeland.


12. Slow West

Westerns are to be treasured these days and boy was this a cracker. It’s a visually gorgeous, surprisingly swift (despite the title) and pleasingly off-kilter story of one young man’s journey to reunite with his lost love.


11. It Follows

David Robert Mitchell’s masterful horror brings together a whole load of influences – from A Nightmare on Elm Street to The Thing – to create a new, deeply unnerving story of an evil presence that just won’t stop.


10. Ex Machina

Alex Garland (28 Days Later, Dredd) turns director in sublime fashion with this slick, complex, thought-provoking piece of modern sci-fi that’s chalk full of ideas and a palpable sense of dread. Alicia Vikander, in one of approximately 9765 roles this year, was astonishing as the lifelike A.I. used to test just exactly what it means to be human. FULL REVIEW HERE


9. The Look of Silence

As if The Act of Killing wasn’t devastating enough, Joshua Oppenheimer followed it up with this arguably even more powerful continued exploration of the brutal 1965/66 Indonesian “death squad” killings. Not exactly an easy watch but an important gut-punch of one nonetheless.


8. Steve Jobs

It may have disappointed some looking for a more straightforward birth-to-death biopic but I loved this unashamedly wordy, supremely economical film. It’s a nigh on perfect marriage of Aaron Sorkin’s verbally complex written approach and Danny Boyle’s playful directorial style, making epic action sequences out of what is essentially people arguing in back rooms.


7. Selma

Just another biopic, you say? Wrong. Ave DuVernay does a magnificent job of exploring a very specific and important point in Martin Luther King’s life in a way that felt both historic and utterly relevant to today’s world, all of which is anchored by David Oyelowo’s stunning central performance.


6. Star Wars: The Force Awakens

I didn’t grow up loving Star Wars so no one was more surprised how much I loved this. Terrific action, depth of character and a fantastic mix of respecting the old while introducing the new; it all just worked so brilliantly. It was also that rarest of things: a massively anticipated and built-up blockbuster that actually lived up to the hype. Consider me a convert to the franchise. FULL REVIEW HERE


5. Fast & Furious 7

Call me crazy but for me this was one of the most purely enjoyable cinematic experiences of the year. Sure, subtlety isn’t exactly atop the list of priorities but it did what it set out to do and then some, with at least half a dozen spectacularly entertaining set-pieces. It also managed to be a surprisingly emotional and fitting send-off for the late Paul Walker. There was something in my eye at the end, I swear…


4. Birdman

My annoyance over it beating Boyhood to Best Picture aside, I loved Alejandro González Iñárritu’s bold and confident exploration of the business of acting and what it means to try to be taken seriously. Michael Keaton gave an all-or-nothing kind of performance at the centre of a film that may have been gimmicky in its  “one continual shot” conceit but, man, what a gimmick it was.


3. Inside Out

It turns out Pixar movies are like anything else in life: you wait for ages then two come along at once. The Good Dinosaur was a bit of a let-down but the same can’t be said for this beautiful tale of a little girl in unfamiliar surroundings: told from the perspective of the emotions inside her head. Gorgeously animated and full of all the heart, wit and emotional beats that made Pixar such a beloved brand. An instant classic. FULL REVIEW HERE


2. Mad Max: Fury Road

Nope, it’s not number 1!…

No one was expecting this to be as good as it was, but the sequel/reboot to the franchise was quite simply one of the best action movies this millennium. Led by a brooding Tom Hardy and a heroine for the ages in Charlize Theron’s Imperator Furiosa, this was a relentless two hour long set-piece that was as brilliantly exhilarating as it was technically astonishing. FULL REVIEW HERE


1. Whiplash

You have to go right back to January to find what is, in my mind, the best film of the year. This blistering second film from writer-director Damien Chazelle is filmmaking at its absolute best, telling the story of a drumming protégé and his tough-as-nails teacher (J.K. Simmons in an Oscar-winning performance) in refreshingly bold, startling fashion with some of the best sound design in recent memory and a finale that grabs you by the throat and make sure you won’t forget the film in a hurry. As good as the rest of the year may have been, nothing reached this level in my eyes.

Note: Some of this content was previously published on Scotcampus. Head over there for more in-depth thoughts on some of the films.

Well that’s it for my list, what’s yours? Be sure to leave it in the comments below!

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I'm a freelance film reviewer and blogger with over 10 years of experience writing for various different reputable online and print publications. In addition to my running, editing and writing for Thoughts On Film, I am also the film critic for The National, the newspaper that supports an independent Scotland, covering the weekly film releases, film festivals and film-related features. I have a passion for all types of cinema, and have a particular love for foreign language film, especially South Korean and Japanese cinema. Favourite films include The Big Lebowski, Pulp Fiction and 2001: A Space Odyssey.


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List: 20 Underrated & Overlooked 21st Century Horror Movies 1 1094

I love horror movies. Ever since I was probably way too young to be watching them, I have delighted in the heightened sense of fearful thrills that they deliver, whether it’s bumps in the night (The Haunting, The Others et al.) or full-on terror (The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Evil Dead).

Despite some of the best horrors of all time being found decades ago, I still think the last 17 years have provided some truly examples of the genre. And often this is not the highest grossing and/or most well-known but those hidden and underrated gems that sneak under the radar for all but the most ardant of the genre fans.

I’ve compiled a big list of my favourites, in no particular order. Enjoy!

Pulse (2001)

10 Alternative Halloween Movie Choices - Pulse (Kairo)

Possibly my favourite horror movie of the century thus far comes from Japan, a country that does the genre like no other. It follows a group of students who are investigating a series of mysterious and baffling suicides that appear to have been caused by a website that promises its visitors a chance to speak to the dead. It can be viewed as a shrewd social commentary on technology and the way the internet affects everyone’s lives but also enjoyed purely as a straightforward horror experience. It has a deeply unnerving atmosphere about it, avoiding cheap jump and gory scares for something far more creepily insidious.

Pontypool (2008)

10 Alternative Halloween Movie Choices - Pontypool

This Canadian horror thriller sadly flew under the radar for most people but it’s one of the most unusual and unique horrors to come out this century thus far. It centres on a group of workers at a radio station in quiet, wintery Ontario town. One particularly cold morning a mysterious virus descends upon the place, causing the victims to turn into babbling zombie-like versions of their former selves. This darkly funny, memorably surreal film presents the “zombies” in a unique way which I won’t spoil here and features amazing sound design to bring the horrific situation to life.

The House of the Devil (2009)

the house of the devil

Indie horror maestro Ti West (The Innkeepers) directs this Rosemary’s Baby-esque tale of a babysitter who accepts a late night job from a mysterious yet perfectly nice stranger (Tom Noonan). At first everything seems normal but she slowly realises something isn’t right in that big house. It’s a cool throwback to horrors of the late ‘70s/early ‘80s – including being shot in that grainy old style – eerily brooding with atmosphere and slow-building towards a nerve-shredding finale.

Visitor Q (2001)

visitor q

Prolific Japanese director Takashi Miike (Audition, Ichi the Killer) proves why he’s one of the most striking filmmaking talents around with this tale of a disturbed and perverted family who are visited by a mysterious stranger who seems to bring some sort of harmony with him. This is not for the easily offended as there are moments that are deeply troubling, if not downright reprehensible. But it makes for a truly unforgettable experience that’s tough to shake from your mind.

Switchblade Romance (2003)

switchblade romance

A firm member of the “New French Extreme” wave of films, this follows a young woman who goes to stay with her friend at her father’s remote farmhouse. The first night they are brutally attacked by a mysterious stranger. There’s a reason the film was known as High Tension in some markets because it provides for some serious edge of your seat viewing accompanied by some wince-inducing gore. It’s unfortunately let down by a stupid, plot hole-laden ending but for the most part it’s an excellent watch.

May (2002)


From director Lucky McKee (The Woman, All Cheerleaders Must Die) comes this unnerving tale of a lonely young woman who tries her best to connect with people following a traumatic childhood. Anchored by a terrifically creepy central performance by Angela Bettis, it’s a wonderfully strange horror that keeps you on your toes and delights in providing moments of real horror shock value.

Grave Encounters (2010)

grave encounters

A bunch of good looking young people decide to stay the night in an abandoned insane asylum in the hopes of capturing some spooky footage for their Most Haunted show. Blah blah blah, we’ve seen this type of thing a million times before. But this particular found footage horror flick actually defies expectations by not only doing something interesting with the in-camera style of shooting and the “things going bump in the night” type of horror but is, most importantly, genuinely scary.

Dumplings (2004)


Raising disgust in horror a new, strange level is this Hong Kong shocker that started out as a short film in anthology Three… Extremes. Without spoiling the gag-inducing surprise, it follows an ageing TV actress who, seeking something that will return her youthful looks, visits an enigmatic chef whose dumpling recipe has a special ingredient. Don’t watch this one with a full stomach!

Tucker & Dale vs. Evil (2010)

tucker and dale vs evil

What if those evil, backwards, killer hicks you see in horror movies all the time were just a victim of circumstance and unfair negative assumptions? That’s the brilliant concept behind this hilarious horror comedy, which follows a couple of friends (Alan Tudyk and Tyler Labine) who are vacationing in their mountain cabin when they happen across a group of kids who keep being killed off around them. It’s ultimately more of a comedy than a horror – and what a hilarious one it is – but there are some awesomely gruesome moments to be found, too.

Session 9 (2001)

session 9

One of the best horror movies that few people have ever heard of, this follows an asbestos cleaning crew (including David Caruso and Peter Mullan) as they work a job at an abandoned mental institution which has a horrific backstory that seems to be coming back to haunt them. Directed by Brad Anderson (The Machinist), this is watch-through-your-fingers creepy, using realistic scares and palpable atmosphere to achieve its horror goals.

Rigor Mortis (2013)

rigor mortis

Who says a horror movie has to just play within that genre? This audacious Hong Kong debut from singer-turned-director Juno Mak hearkens back to the vampire flicks made in the ’80s, namely the long-running Mr. Vampire series. The meta plot follows a formerly successful star of that series, Chin Siu-ho, who becomes depressed and suicidal after his wife leaves him and goes to stay at a rundown apartment building that’s actually inhabited by supernatural creatures, ghost hunters and the souls of the undead who co-exist with the neighbours. Creepy horror, thrilling crime, dark comedy, crazy and unique CGI… it’s all in there and more.

Inside (2007)


Another of the celebrated “New French Extremity” films, this insanely gory horror follows a heavily pregnant young woman who is targeted and attacked in her own home by an scorned older woman who is clearly after her baby. Definitely not one for the faint-hearted, you’ll need a strong stomach for what is an extremely graphic but seat-clawingly tense horror experience.

Eden Lake (2008)

eden lake

Michael Fassbender and Kelly Reilly play a young couple who decide to have a relaxing weekend at the reclusive Eden Lake. When they confront a group of disruptive youths (one of whom played by rising star Jack O’Connell), their getaway turns nightmarish as the group start to terrorize the couple. It’s so effective because it feels scarily real throughout; there are no ghosts or demons to be found here but rather just human beings being nasty and brutal.

Them (2006)


This very scary French horror (known as “Ils” in its native language) follows a young couple who get terrorized by a group of hooded strangers at their secluded farmhouse. It works so well because the situation feels terrifyingly believable, brilliantly tapping into that basic fear of intruders trying to get into your home at night and hurt you. The jaw-dropping ending only adds to why it’s so unnerving.

Thirst (2009)


Celebrated South Korean director Park Chan-wook (Oldboy, Stoker) puts his definitive mark on the vampire movie with this story of a priest (Korean superstar Song Kang-ho) who is turned into a vampire following a failed medical experiment and is forced to abandon his priestly calling in order to feed on blood. Beloved by vampire movie and international cinema aficianados, it unfortunately remains a bit lesser known in the wider field. It’s a visually striking film, dripping with brooding, atmospheric tension and never afraid to show the horrors of vampirism or the classic sensuality that goes with it.

Frozen (2010)


Definitely not to be confused with the animated Disney musical, this one has the simple premise of a group of three friends who get stuck up in ski left at a resort just as the park closes. It might seem boring just watching people stuck in one place for the whole movie but director Adam Green wrings every bit of tension out of the situation, chucking in shocks and tense “what would I do?” situations to rival the best of ’em.

Ritual (2012)


Sometimes it’s best to go into a horror film knowing as little about the plot as possible. Such is the case with Ritual, a cracking Indonesian horror from director Joko Anwar. In basic terms it’s about a man who mysteriously wakes up buried alive in the woods, with no idea who he is, how he got there or why. He then goes on a search for answers, eventually finding himself struggling to escape the clutches of a mysterious assailant. Its best to leave it there as it provides a chilling, mystery-filled ride full of twists and turns and with an absolute killer ending.

Ginger Snaps (2000)

ginger snaps

This terrific teen horror follows a couple of death-obsessed high schoolers and outcasts in their suburban neighbourhood whose morbidity becomes all too real when one of them gets bitten by a werewolf. As befits a lot of the best horrors, it uses the surface level werewolf story to examine universally relatable themes of puberty and growing up in a world that doesn’t accept being different.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

trick r treat

This wonderful love letter to the Halloween season tell its story in four segments – including a high school teacher with a secret life as a serial killer, a college virgin looking to meet “the one,” a legend about school bus tragedy and a crotchety old man who hates the holiday – each interweaving with one another on All Hallow’s Eve. Filled with chilling, blood-soaked surprises and in-jokes for horror fans, few movies exemplify that spookiest of holidays as much as this one.

Behind the Mask: The Rise of Leslie Vernon (2006)

behind the mask

This hugely under-seen meta horror follows a wannabe serial killer in training who takes his inspiration from legendary horror killers like Michael Myers, Freddy Krueger and Jason Vorhees. It’s chalk full of in-jokes and nods to horrors of years past – for instance, that Leslie has to do lots of cardio so he can keep up with his victims while making it look like he’s just walking – using a faux documentary style at first before turning into a scary full-on slasher.

That’s it for our list. Have you seen any of these movies? Can you think of any other underrated/lesser known gems you want people to seek out? Comment below!

List: 10 Great Documentaries to Watch on Netflix 0 747

Documentaries are one of my favourite kinds of films, whether they’re exploring a subject that I’m already drawn to or introducing me to a topic about which I know nothing. Luckily Netflix has proven a more than decent resource for docs and at this very moment have some fantastic ones available. Here’s a list of 10 such docs well worth your time.

Note: This list refers to the UK region of Netflix.



Ava DuVernay impressed mightily with her Oscar-winning Martin Luther King Jr. “biopic” Selma a couple of years back. She followed that up with this masterful documentary that looks at the U.S. prison system and its history of systemic, institutional racism. Illuminating facts such as a quarter of the world’s incarcerated criminals are imprisoned within the U.S. is just the tip of the iceberg exposed by this essential doc that looks at everything from the Civil Rights movement to D.W. Griffith’s ever-controversial 1915 film The Birth of a Nation to the state of discrimination in today’s society and beyond. It informs you with statistics and figures but never feels like a lecture, shining a spotlight on conversations that more than ever need to be had.

Cartel Land


A great non-fiction companion piece to Denis Villeneuve’s Sicario, this Oscar-winning doc from director Matthew Heineman explores the murky world of Mexican drug cartels and the vigilante groups dedicated to fighting them however they can. The inherent false equivalence of the approach niggles away as an issue, particularly as you think back over it, but it’s undoubtedly harrowing and vividly showcased viewing in the moment, particularly when you see how people put themselves in such dangerous situations in order to get the footage crucial to giving us a picture of a drug war that shows no signs of ending or offering up any easy answers.

The Hard Stop


The compelling British documentary explores the case of Mark Duggan, a 29-year-old black man and father of six who, back in 2011, was shot and killed by armed police in Tottenham after stopping him by the side of the road using the controversial eponymous police tactic. Purportedly because he was wielding a gun despite evidence to the contrary. Documentarian George Amponsah’s hard-hitting and uncompromising film explores everything from the ensuing headline controversy, the riots that it sparked and the damaged lives of Mark’s best friends, Marcus and Kurtis, who try to battle against ongoing discrimination in getting on with their own lives as well as continuing to fight for justice for what happened to their friend. Amponsah displays a keen eye for human emotion and a shrewd way of re-illuminating a story that, since the tragedy occurred, has faded from a lot of people’s memories.

The Fear of 13


There have been many documentaries about life on death row but few I’ve seen have resonated quite so powerfully on a gut-punch and profound level. David Sington’s stylishly done and piercing film explores the story of Nick Yarris, a man who spent more than two decades on Death Row on DNA evidence that, as would later show, was flimsy at best. It’s a tremendously up-close-and-personal film, with Yarris himself writ large on-screen as he tells his incredible story, full of jaw-dropping twists and turns, in fascinating detail. The eerie opening sequence is particularly potent, as Nick describes the punishing psychological effect of the enforced deafening silence on the Death Row block.

Jesus Camp


Religion is always a hot button topic and it particularly scorches in this unflinching and oftentimes shocking documentary from directors Heidi Ewing and Rachel Grady. It takes us on a journey into the “Kids on Fire” summer camp for that teaches (or indoctrinates, depending on your viewpoint) children into becoming evangelical Christians. Crucially the documentary never takes the angle that the very idea that faith itself is a bad thing but taps into how the means by which religious information disseminated particularly to young kids can be as damaging (if not more so) than the so-called immoral behaviour to which it’s trying so desperately to prevent them from succumbing.

The Queen of Versailles


This stranger than fiction documentary follows the lives of David Siegel, the billionaire owner of timeshare Westgate Resorts in Florida, and his former beauty queen wife Jackie who embark on a mission to build Versailles, a lavish house that would be the biggest privately owned, single family home in America. But it’s about more than just showcasing the extravagant life of a super rich family; it explores the effect the U.S. economic crash (David’s business was directly tied into what caused the financial crisis) has on the family – a twist of fate thrust upon director Lauren Greenfield that turns the film into a far more complex prospect – how they need to readjust their lavish lifestyle while trying to keep up appearances as they come crashing down from the heights their wealth affords them. The colourful characters that populate the film, particularly the flamboyant woman of the title, keep things entertaining as we navigate their riches-to-rags story.

Into the Inferno


This Netflix-produced documentary by the incomparable Werner Herzog would fit perfectly into a group with his other natural world docs like Cave of Forgotten Dreams and Encounters at the End of the World – it actually takes its cue from the latter as it’s where Herzog first met the volcanologist and co-director, Clive Oppenheimer, during a crucial scene. It’s an educational film but lent a purely cinematic quality, flavoured with Herzog’s signature style of fascinating insight, endearing genuine curiosity and unashamed obsession with the mystical nature of the natural world. It gives us a frighteningly up-close-and-personal look one of earth’s most ferocious natural features and the reiterates the idea that Mother Nature really doesn’t mess around.

Life Itself


Roger Ebert is probably the most famous and influential American film critic of all. He sadly passed away back in 2013 and this love letter of a documentary does an amazing job of showcasing what made him so special. It gives us a lifelong view of his time here on earth; his upbringing, him making headway into the world of film journalism at the Chicago Sun Times (where he would remain for the entirety of his career), his often tumultuous friendship with fellow At the Movies critic Gene Siskel, his marriage to loving faithful and loving Chaz and how he persevered with his writing despite his devastating throat cancer diagnosis that would ultimately claim his life. It’s a documentary that bowled me over when I first saw it, for its deep sense of empathy and sense of reverence for a man I, like many, held up as a hero. It’s essential viewing for those who felt the same about him or even those who have even a passing interest in film criticism as an art form.

The Look of Silence


Alongside its predecessor The Act of Killing, this documentary from Joshua Oppenheimer is one of the toughest and most harrowing docs I’ve ever seen as it further explores the sickening genocide that took place in Indonesia back in 1965-66 at the hands of so-called “death squads” who deemed the victims as Communists that needed be wiped out. Where the previous film took a more expansive and unusual approach – getting the killers themselves, years later, to reenact the crimes – this one zeroes in on one of the families affected by the devastating event. We see how a man named Adi plucks up tremendous courage to not only speak out about what happened to his brother, Ramli, but confront those who took his life, many of whom are still in positions of power. It’s never what you would call an easy watch but an essential one that makes sure you never forget its difficult subject matter.

Precinct Seven Five


This gripping and impressively detailed documentary from director Tiller Russell explores the murky and dangerous world of police corruption, particularly focusing on the case of Michael Dowd, a once-bright young New York City cop who in the ’80s morphed into one of the most corrupt in the department’s history, heading a ruthless criminal network that stole money and drugs while patrolling the city he swore to protect and serve. The film sidesteps cliches of cop corruption so often explored in fiction and non-fiction storytelling alike by painting an enthralling portrait of the individuals surrounding Dowd, each with their own angles to tell. It presents its fascinating documentary recounting with both panache and gritty authenticity.