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Reckless Indifference
2000 - NR - 100 Mins.
Director: William Gazeki
Producer: William Gazeki
Starring: Alan Dershowitz, Tom Hayden
Review by: David Rolston
   
Mark Twain wrote that "Truth is stranger than fiction, but it is because Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities; Truth isn't."

Documentarian William Gazeki's "Reckless Indifference" tells the story of seven teenage boys, whose day of drinking and drug use culminated with a backyard brawl inside a darkened shack. Although the fight lasted a few minutes at most, unlike the many similar and all too commonplace rites of testosterone fueled passage it resembled, this fight ended in tragic fashion. Seventeen year old Jimmy Farris, died a short time later of a stab wound that seemed to have little effect at the time it was inflicted. As it turns out, the wound had punctured his heart and the result was massive internal bleeding.

Some of the most painful moments in 'Reckless Indifference' are produced by interviews with Farris's parents. At one point, a tearful Judie Farris describes her son, seen in photographs as a shaggy blonde-haired teenager with a winning smile and braces, as the "closest thing there was to an angel on earth." During sentencing of the boys convicted of murdering her son, she holds up a locket of hair she cut from his head at the hospital where he was pronounced dead. "This is all I have left of him." She states. One cannot help but empathize with the Farris's and forgive their lack of objectivity.

"Reckless Indifference" builds to a slow burn as it methodically introduces the elements of the case, and alternates between the Farris's, trial testimony and interviews with the defendent's parents and families, their lawyers and the prosecutors, with analysis from journalists who covered the trial and have written about it subsequently.

What emerges is a powerful portrait of suburban America, and the illusions suburbanites have about crime, punishment, the safety of their neighborhoods, and most of all, about their own children. 'Reckless Indifference', while on one hand a straight legal thriller, ultimately has equal value as a meditation on the peculiar and unreasonable fear of criminal victimization that seems to disable reason, judgment, and the reconciliation of belief with one's own experience prevalent in many affluent suburban communities.

The events depicted in "Reckless Indifference" occurred in Agoura Hills California, an affluent (median household income of $85k) predominantly white (close to 90%) suburban Los Angeles community in the foothills of the Santa Monica Mountains. Gazeki's film examines the confluence of events that created a hyperbolic atmosphere, amplified by sensationalized media coverage, and a closing of the ranks amongst the law enforcement and judicial fraternity. Although the trial occurred in a Malibu courtroom and was overseen by the same judge who presided over Robert Downey Jr.'s incarceration, as one defense attorney puts it: you would have thought that the "Mexican mafia" was on trial. Gazeki's film does its best to present an even handed opportunity for both camps to present their side of the story, although its evidently clear from the start that as far as Gazeki is concerned, something outrageously unfair occurred in the Farris murder trial.

The majority of the film concerns discussion of the legal maneuvering, technicalities, and a painstaking examination of what exactly happened that day, and why. In their efforts to exercise the legal system, many of the people involved in the case don't seem particularly interested in understanding what happened, or why, and this is clearly the crux of the matter. The indifference of the legal system and lack of proportionality and apparent justice, certainly left many of those featured in the film, in shocked disbelief. If Twain were here to witness these events, I suppose he would not be surprised, but probably more than a little bit disappointed, and I suspect many viewers will find themselves questioning their assumptions about the application of our seemingly ever more stringent penal code.
 
Movie Guru Rating
Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental. Entertaining and well crafted.  May not be worth the price of a theater ticket, but a solid rental.
  3.5 out of 5 stars

 
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