Movie Review: "The Central Park 5"


Movie Review: "The Central Park 5": A trip through hell.

Ken Burn’s documentary “The Central Park 5” begins with the rape of a jogger in the park during April of 1989, but that’s really only the start of the tragedy that occurred. Working with his daughter and son-in-law, Burns has created a near-flawless film about the flaws in our criminal justice system, while zeroing in on an “us vs. them” mentality that seems to come out in people during cases such as this.

Antron McCray, Yusef Salaam, Kevin Richardson, Kharey Wise, and Raymond Santana were the five black and Latino boys who wound up being accused of this horrific crime. It was a case of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, as these guys were just some of many boys in the park that night when an activity called “wildin”, attacking people for fun, broke out. The boys were arrested, and handled roughly, at different times but none could have predicted what would come next.

Burns really shines a light on the tactics of police interrogation and its use of intimidation, manipulation, and coercion that goes into getting confessions out of suspects. After a while the truth doesn’t even matter anymore. Through old news footage and one on one interviews with these guys, Burns sets up the scenario where these scared-shitless teenagers turned on each other after nearly a day of being prodded to do so and as one guy points out, after a while it just seemed better to fake being a witness to the crime than to actually be named a suspect in it.

But this film also goes deeper. There’s of course the racial tension of the 80’s, where New York was basically known as the capital of racial violence and minorities were mostly poor and seen as threats. But there was also a feeling in the public and the media that both identified more with the rape victim, and the women journalists interviewed for this film seem to the saying the same, and that when this “Wildin in Central Park” story came out, it only put these guys in the “them” category with the same animals who carried out these attacks in the park that night.

It doesn’t really explain all of why the media didn’t latch on to the discrepancies and conflicting evidence in the case but overall this is a spellbinding and jaw-dropping film about five guys who went through and are still going through something that changed their lives forever. Few other films this year have been more powerful.