“The Interrupters,” reviewed

“The Interrupters,” reviewed (photo)

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I see a lot of bad documentaries about good people. Some of the most boring docs are about the most interesting people because their filmmakers simply assume that their subjects’ greatness will transfer to their documentary through some sort of cinematic osmosis. Steve James and Alex Kotlowitz, director and producer of the new documentary “The Interrupters,” do not make that mistake.

Their subjects are good people — flawed, but good — working to end the disease of violence in Chicago. But James and Kotlowitz don’t just get a couple talking head interviews with these men and women, throw in a few experts on crime and gang violence, and call it a day. They spent a year with these so-called “violence interrupters,” insinuating themselves into their lives and their work. We get to know who they are, what they’ve done, and what they continue to do for the city of Chicago. “The Interrupters” is about an important issue and important people, but it doesn’t parade its importance like a medal of honor. It never forgets it’s a movie first, and its job is to do more than educate: it must entertain and move as well as enlighten.

The violence interrupters work for a Chicago organization named CeaseFire. Founded by an epidemiologist, the violence interrupters’ work is founded on the idea that crime works like a viral infection and that the best way to defeat it is to combat it accordingly: by stopping it at its point of transmission. That’s why the interrupters work with their community to literally interrupt disputes: they interject themselves into arguments and mediate conflict or target the victims of violent crime and counsel them in the hopes of staving off retaliatory attacks. This is incredibly dangerous work; in one scene, an interrupter breaks up a dispute and winds up in the hospital with multiple gunshot wounds. Though their primary metaphor is disease, you might also say that the interrupters are also street-level bomb diffusers; every time they go out on the job lives, including their own, are on the line. But when the interrupters are successful they can not only save lives in the short-term, they can change them for the better in the long-term.

Perhaps the greatest beneficiaries of the interrupters’ work are the interrupters themselves, who are all former violent offenders. James and Kotlowitz’s three main subjects are all reformed criminals who have found a productive outlet for their experiences as gangsters, hustlers, and murderers as interrupters. Their experience and their history gives them an edge when talking to someone considering violence that you or I would never have. There’s Ameena, the daughter of an infamous Chicago gang leader, and a fearless woman who will interject herself into a group of twenty-five men and challenging their manhood. Jovial Cobe works his phone like a Hollywood agent, constantly looking for the next gig; he deflates incidents with common sense and absurd humor. And finally Eddie, the newest interrupter of the three, works to stop crime before it starts, by speaking with young children to teach them how to avoid and learn from gang violence at an early age. Any one of these interrupters would be a good enough subject for their own movie, but James and Kotlowitz expertly blend all three, along with some of their more troubled clients, into a massive and compelling tapestry of life on the streets of Chicago.

They accompany Ameena, Cobe, and Eddie on the job and capture some extraordinary footage: a fight raging out of control between some angry women; a young man, fresh out of prison, with the courage to confront the people he wronged and apologize to them; a man who wants to retaliate after police have wronged his family, convinced to drop the matter thanks to wise advice of an interrupter. With the richness of character of a great novel and the crackerjack suspense of a good thriller, “The Interrupters” is never less than totally engaging. The interrupters do good work, but that’s just one of many reasons why this is a very good film.

“The Interrupters” opens Friday in New York City. If you see it we want to hear what you think. Tell us in the comments below or on Facebook and Twitter.

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Millennial Wisdom

Charles Speaks For Us All

Get to know Charles, the social media whiz of Brockmire.

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He may be an unlikely radio producer Brockmire, but Charles is #1 when it comes to delivering quips that tie a nice little bow on the absurdity of any given situation.

Charles also perfectly captures the jaded outlook of Millennials. Or at least Millennials as mythologized by marketers and news idiots. You know who you are.

Played superbly by Tyrel Jackson Williams, Charles’s quippy nuggets target just about any subject matter, from entry-level jobs in social media (“I plan on getting some experience here, then moving to New York to finally start my life.”) to the ramifications of fictional celebrity hookups (“Drake and Taylor Swift are dating! Albums y’all!”). But where he really nails the whole Millennial POV thing is when he comments on America’s second favorite past-time after type II diabetes: baseball.

Here are a few pearls.

On Baseball’s Lasting Cultural Relevance

“Baseball’s one of those old-timey things you don’t need anymore. Like cursive. Or email.”

On The Dramatic Value Of Double-Headers

“The only thing dumber than playing two boring-ass baseball games in one day is putting a two-hour delay between the boring-ass games.”

On Sartorial Tradition

“Is dressing badly just a thing for baseball, because that would explain his jacket.”

On Baseball, In A Nutshell

“Baseball is a f-cked up sport, and I want you to know it.”

Learn more about Charles in the behind-the-scenes video below.

And if you were born before the late ’80s and want to know what the kids think about Baseball, watch Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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Crown Jules

Amanda Peet FTW on Brockmire

Amanda Peet brings it on Brockmire Wednesday at 10P on IFC.

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GIFS via Giphy

On Brockmire, Jules is the unexpected yin to Jim Brockmire’s yang. Which is saying a lot, because Brockmire’s yang is way out there. Played by Amanda Peet, Jules is hard-drinking, truth-spewing, baseball-loving…everything Brockmire is, and perhaps what he never expected to encounter in another human.

“We’re the same level of functional alcoholic.”

But Jules takes that commonality and transforms it into something special: a new beginning. A new beginning for failing minor league baseball team “The Frackers”, who suddenly about-face into a winning streak; and a new beginning for Brockmire, whose life gets a jumpstart when Jules lures him back to baseball. As for herself, her unexpected connection with Brockmire gives her own life a surprising and much needed goose.

“You’re a Goddamn Disaster and you’re starting To look good to me.”

This palpable dynamic adds depth and complexity to the narrative and pushes the series far beyond expected comedy. See for yourself in this behind-the-scenes video (and brace yourself for a unforgettable description of Brockmire’s genitals)…

Want more about Amanda Peet? She’s all over the place, and has even penned a recent self-reflective piece in the New York Times.

And of course you can watch the Jim-Jules relationship hysterically unfold in new episodes of Brockmire, every Wednesday at 10PM on IFC.

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Draught Pick

Sam Adams “Keeps It Brockmire”

All New Brockmire airs Wednesdays at 10P on IFC.

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From baseball to beer, Jim Brockmire calls ’em like he sees ’em.


It’s no wonder at all, then, that Sam Adams would reach out to Brockmire to be their shockingly-honest (and inevitably short-term) new spokesperson. Unscripted and unrestrained, he’ll talk straight about Sam—and we’ll take his word. Check out this new testimonial for proof:

See more Brockmire Wednesdays at 10P on IFC, presented by Samuel Adams. Good f***** beer.

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