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The Central Park Five (2012)

tomatometer

97

Average Rating: 7.7/10
Critic Reviews: 29
Fresh: 28 | Rotten: 1

No consensus yet.

audience

85

liked it
Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 7,589

My Rating

Movie Info

In 1989, five black and Latino teenagers were arrested and charged for brutally attacking and raping a white female jogger in Central Park. News media swarmed the case, calling it "the crime of the century." But the truth about what really happened didn't become clear until after the five had spent years in prison for a crime they didn't commit. With THE CENTRAL PARK FIVE, this story of injustice finally gets the telling it deserves. Based on Sarah Burns' best-selling book and co-directed by her

Apr 23, 2013

$0.3M

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All Critics (69) | Top Critics (29) | Fresh (64) | Rotten (5)

It's a vivid and gripping documentary (although, at two hours, somewhat longer than it needs to be), a grave indictment of a city and a system at the breaking point.

April 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Philadelphia Inquirer
Philadelphia Inquirer
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Expect your blood pressure to rise during The Central Park Five.

December 24, 2012 Full Review Source: Toronto Star
Toronto Star
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The doc is rife with smart or wrenching or shameful moments. The fresh interviews with the accused, now men, are invaluable.

December 21, 2012 Full Review Source: Denver Post
Denver Post
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As grim a portrait of the criminal justice system as can be imagined.

December 14, 2012 Full Review Source: Detroit News
Detroit News
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How could this second crime have occurred? The film asks that question but only partly answers it, and in the process it raises an even more troubling one.

December 14, 2012 Full Review Source: Washington Post
Washington Post
Top Critic IconTop Critic

"The Central Park Five" is a sobering indictment of racism and vigilante justice, yet it is constrained by a PBS-style deference to the very system it critiques.

December 13, 2012 Full Review Source: St. Louis Post-Dispatch
St. Louis Post-Dispatch
Top Critic IconTop Critic

It's more like an interesting, in-depth article in The New Yorker than a movie.

July 27, 2013 Full Review Source: Twitch

The film, in some ways a primer on the perennial intractability of racial prejudice, clearly intends to be some sort of vindication of its five central figures. It succeeds in the first respect but falls wide of the mark in the second.

June 17, 2013 Full Review Source: Film Comment Magazine
Film Comment Magazine

The filmmakers do a tremendous job of setting the mood and mind-set of New Yorkers in the spring of 1989, when violent crime was rampant and the Big Apple was rotting to the core.

May 13, 2013 Full Review Source: The Patriot Ledger
The Patriot Ledger

Burns and Co. once again nail the complexity of history with traditionally eye-opening results, yet The Central Park Five isn't quite as comprehensive as hoped, capping such profound pain with a few nagging question marks.

April 26, 2013 Full Review Source: Blu-ray.com
Blu-ray.com

The Central Park Five takes one of the most sensational crimes of the late 20th century and strips the circus that followed down to its roots. The horrific attack in the woods on that April night 24 years ago was just the beginning.

April 16, 2013 Full Review Source: Kansas City Star
Kansas City Star

The Central Park Five," the second best documentary of 2013, examines the case, placing in perfect context of what was happening in 1989 in NYC and how it led to evil both in Central Park and in the offices of the people trying to keep us safe.

April 16, 2013 Full Review Source: HollywoodChicago.com
HollywoodChicago.com

When hysteria trumps innocence

March 28, 2013 Full Review Source: Movie Habit
Movie Habit

Like the "Paradise Lost" films, it's a shocking but clear-eyed portrait of injustice.

January 10, 2013 Full Review Source: St. Paul Pioneer Press
St. Paul Pioneer Press

The Central Park Five is such a moving piece of work, it is difficult to watch at times.

January 4, 2013 Full Review Source: Paste Magazine
Paste Magazine

It shows what happens when police and prosecutors abuse their power.

January 1, 2013 Full Review Source: Laramie Movie Scope
Laramie Movie Scope

Puts the crime and the times in sharp perspective.

December 20, 2012 Full Review Source: East Bay Express
East Bay Express

Burns and company conduct a thorough, riveting investigation that does a far better job of assessing the tragedy than the justice system did two decades before. Of course, hindsight is an advantage we all take for granted.

December 20, 2012 Full Review Source: NOW Toronto
NOW Toronto

It's a gripping story that comes in a well-crafted package.

December 17, 2012 Full Review Source: Screen International
Screen International

A heartbreaking expose' about a rush to judgment which ruined five, innocent young lives.

December 16, 2012 Full Review Source: AALBC.com
AALBC.com

Exclusive interviews with former heads of Israel's counter terrorism agency reveal insiders' analysis about the country's policies. Fascinating. Frightening.

December 16, 2012 Full Review Source: New York Press
New York Press

Audience Reviews for The Central Park Five

As an in depth look into the heinous behavior of the New York City police department at the time of the case of the Central Park Five, this film digs deep into the motivations for these horrible choices to coerce, and the repercussions for five teenaged boys. Any film about false imprisonment is a tear jerker and fills you with compassion and anger. The film is quick to point out that the prison system incarcerates those they see as doing wrong, but does not remember them, or console them, for their false convictions, instead letting them go and shrugging as if to say "Oops." Ken Burns is always insightful and happy to show the cultural and ethno-political leanings of every event he covers. In this way we get the feel for the time period, the racial tensions between the police and racial minorities, and the fervor and rioting that took place. Still, it was a huge case that took the nation by storm, but once they were exonerated, no one cared, and that's what really makes this documentary stand out. Not only does this tell a story, but shows that no one cared about the ending.
March 29, 2014
FrizzDrop

Super Reviewer

The story of the five teenagers who were picked up in Central Park, charged with rape, and convicted based on suspect confessions, then freed after serving years in jail when DNA evidence identified the real rapist. A frightening reminder that whenever there's a horrible crime, society demands that someone must pay, and you don't want to be the one in the wrong place at the wrong time. NEVER TALK TO THE POLICE DURING AN INVESTIGATION WITHOUT A LAWYER PRESENT.
February 6, 2013
366weirdmovies
Greg S

Super Reviewer

"The Central Park Five" is a heartbreaking and powerful documentary about five teenagers, Antron McCray, Kevin Richardson, Raymond Santana, Kharey Wise and Yusef Salaam who were falsely convicted in the rape and assault of Trisha Meili in Central Park on April 19, 1989. As District Attorney Robert Morgenthau puts it, if only they had known then what they later knew when the youths were exonerated. But here is the rub. The correct evidence was there, if only they had wanted to look for it. Instead, there was a rush to judgment by the police in coercing their confessions and later in the press, which the documentary painstakingly details with a thoroughly credible timeline of events. Later, you can see how their lives were adversely affected, as Richardson's sister points out that they are as much victims as Meili.

Whereas it is safe to say that New York City has changed dramatically over the decades, it is not quite as "The Central Park Five" alleges, barely glancing over the changes in the police department, along with perceptions that go beyond just those concerning race. For example, Meili felt comfortable enough to jog in the park after dark, as Central Park has always been less a sacred space as Koch testifies(It's neat that he allows to be interviewed here, considering his past intemperate comments. It would have been nice to have gotten other officials on the record to see how some of them sleep at night.), than a commons for all of the city's people to enjoy, even as the documentary via the tabloids of the day would say otherwise.(Not to be facetious but there are two ways I can tell a neighborhood is safe: joggers and dog walkers.) By the way, the only thing stopping New York State getting the death penalty at the time was Mario Cuomo's courageous annual veto.
December 29, 2012
Harlequin68
Walter M.

Super Reviewer

In typical Ken Burns fashion, we have a magnificently laid out documentary that is not only the story of five innocent teenagers but the history of a City and its rough and tumble period during the eighties. Excellent.
April 17, 2013
John Ballantine

Super Reviewer

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