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The Central Park Five | 2012 | NR | - 3.4.5

A documentary following the arrest, trial, wrongful conviction and imprisonment of five black and Latino teenagers in New York City. Arrested in 1989 and charged with raping and beating a white woman while engaging in an activity that became known as "wilding," the infamous case was reopened when a serial rapist confessed to the crime, after the teens had spent as many as 13 years in jail. Directed by Ken Burns, Sarah Burns & David McMahon. [1:59]

SEX/NUDITY 3 - During a news interview a police officer explains that a woman had been found only wearing a bra, that her pants had been removed and that it appeared that she had been raped multiple times (please see the Violence/Gore category for more details).
 On multiple occasions we see billboards, signs and movie marquees advertising strip clubs and exotic dancers.


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VIOLENCE/GORE 4 - We see a rapid series of footage that shows the following: A crime scene with a body on the ground is shown with a sheet covering the body; a man is seen with bandages on his face being wheeled away on a gurney; a man face-down on a gurney with a bandage over a portion of his back; a bloody bandage is seen on a man's face; we see a SWAT team surrounding a man; we see two photographs, shown in series, of a man holding a gun to a woman's head as a man and a woman watch silently; we see the body of a teen boy in a casket as his mother kisses the boy's head; we see a photograph of two dead bodies hanging from a tree (several men and women look at the bodies from the ground) and a man narrates that several teen boys could have been treated very similarly if they had committed a crime in an earlier century, including being lynched, their genitals were cut off and then their bodies were burned.
 During a news interview, a police officer explains that a woman had been found partially undressed (please see the Sex/Nudity category for more details) and raped, that she was suffering from hypothermia and had been almost beaten to death; we see a crime scene in the background with a small amount of blood visible on a piece of clothing on the ground (we later learn that the woman made a full recovery after being in a coma and completing extensive physical therapy).
 Three men read admissions that they had written as teenagers: we see footage of the men as teenagers, admitting to beating and raping a woman and one teen boy explains that he had grabbed the woman's breasts and that they had witnessed other teen boys having sex with an unconscious woman; a teen boy explains that he had witnessed another teen boy pick up a rock and repeatedly strike a woman in the face with it.
 We see four men and hear the narration of a fifth man describing how as teenagers, one night they had been responsible for throwing rocks off a bridge at passers-by, that the teens then moved in a pack and tried to pull a man and a woman off their bicycles (they were not successful) and then began to surround and beat up a homeless man; two of the men describe how another teen boy had taken a beer bottle and broken it over the homeless man's head and the men then describe trying to run as the police showed up.
 We hear a man's voice narrate that as a teen, he had struck a woman with a tree branch, knocked her to the ground and beat her repeatedly until she "screamed in pain" and was bleeding; we later hear the confession a second time. During an interview, a man explains that as a teenager in jail he had been witness and victim to different crimes, including seeing a stabbing and being beaten up by other prisoners. A man describes how, as a teen boy, when he was arrested, a police officer had hit him across the face with a helmet, causing a large cut on the boy's face (we later see the cut on the boy's face during a taped interview); the boy explains that he had told a second officer that the first officer had attacked him, and the second officer accused him of lying. A man describes how as a teen boy being interrogated by the police he had thought that the police officers might actually kill him. A man tells a police officer that several police officers had crudely accused him (as a teen boy) of beating and raping a woman. A man explains that as a police officer interrogated him when he was a teenager the officer had become angry and spit in the boy's face. A man explains that while being interrogated as a teen boy, a police officer had gotten very close to his face and poked him in the chest. We hear five men explain on multiple occasions that they had been coached into admitting to a crime, saying that police officers had mislead them and given them incorrect information to try to get a conviction. A man's voiceover explains that a female victim of an attack was left with a fractured skull and had lost a majority of her body fluids and was "practically dead" (we learn the woman later made a slow recovery). A woman's narration explains that she had heard that a woman was found in a city park, beaten and raped. During an interview, a woman explains that she knew of a female rape victim that had been thrown off a building. A man's interview explains that in the late 1980s that there were an average of six murders a day in a city, but a woman's attack was given attention in the media because it was perceived as a racial crime.
 A man's interview explains that three teen boys had been sent to a juvenile hall that held violent criminals, including teens that had murdered and committed rape. A man makes a comment that he, as a teen boy, was sent to a juvenile hall and was warned by a police officer and that they "didn't like rapists," implying that the teen boy was going to be beaten up at the juvenile hall. A man explains that after being released from prison he was classified as a sex offender and had to register every month as a sex offender. A man's interview explains that he had gotten into drug dealing and we read that the man had been arrested and sentenced to additional jail time due to a previous felony conviction. A man's interview explains that he had been worried as a teen boy being sent to jail, saying that he had to "grow up really fast" in jail because people were "dying over cigarettes"; we later learn that the man has social difficulties due to his time in jail, and has problems dealing with large crowds. We hear four men discuss how, as teenagers, they were held and interrogated "for hours" after a crime, until they were tired and desperate to go home. During an interview a man explains that his father had died while the man was in prison as a teenager and the man speculates that his father had died of cirrhosis of the liver. A man explains during an interview that he had been given a timeline of a series of crimes committed by a group of teen boys (throwing rocks, trying to pull bikers off their bicycles and then attacking a homeless man) and that it did not match up with the time that a woman had been beaten and raped, thus making it impossible for a group of teens to have committed the crime. A man discusses how "crack wars" caused excessive violence in a city. A woman explains that she had been mugged multiple times but had thought it was not a big deal. A man narrates how the only crime he had committed on a specific night was "jumping the turnstile" in the subway. A woman shouts at a camera and we see her push it away. A narrator explains that a woman had fainted and we see the woman on a gurney being wheeled away; she is later seen unharmed.
 Throughout the movie we see newspaper headlines detailing a crime: a woman beaten almost to death and then raped, and the woman's body was found and she was in an extended coma but recovered after a long stay in the hospital. Throughout the movie we see newspaper headlines detailing that five teens had been charged with beating and raping a woman. We see a series of newspaper headlines describing how a 14-year-old boy had been killed after he whistled at a woman of a different race. We see a series of newspaper headlines explaining how a teen boy was a "serial rapist" and had murdered a woman, and admitted to stabbing her repeatedly. We see multiple instances of a newspaper headline reading that a pregnant woman had been murdered in her home. We see a headline announcing that a boy had been used as a "human shield" and was murdered after his mother was involved in a drug deal. We hear a reporter announce that a woman had been found murdered in her own home. At a press conference, an older man reads aloud the series of charges levied against five teen boys, including rape, sodomy, assault and attempted murder. We see multiple newspaper headlines discussing how people would be interested in bringing back the death penalty to punish five teenagers convicted of beating and raping a woman.


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LANGUAGE 5 - About 4 F-words, 1 bleeped F-word, 8 sexual references, 7 anatomical terms, 8 mild obscenities, name-calling (little animal, dumb, teenage mutants, rapist animal, rat), 1 religious exclamation.


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SUBSTANCE USE - A man's narration explains that the emergence of crack cocaine led to suffering and poverty in a city, and we see multiple headlines about the use of crack cocaine. We see a photograph of a man smoking a cigarette.


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DISCUSSION TOPICS - Death penalty, wrongful conviction, overturning convictions, guilt, police corruption, wilding, juvenile criminals being charged as adults.

MESSAGE - Wrongful convictions and police corruption can ruin a person's life.

CAVEATS

Be aware that while we do our best to avoid spoilers it is impossible to disguise all details and some may reveal crucial plot elements.

We've gone through several editorial changes since we started covering films in 1992 and older reviews are not as complete & accurate as recent ones; we plan to revisit and correct older reviews as resources and time permits.

Our ratings and reviews are based on the theatrically-released versions of films; on video there are often Unrated, Special, Director's Cut or Extended versions, (usually accurately labelled but sometimes mislabeled) released that contain additional content, which we did not review.


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