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The Interrupters (2011)


Average Rating: 8.3/10
Reviews Counted: 84
Fresh: 84
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: Impeccably crafted and edited, The Interrupters is a tough and honest documentary about street violence that truly has the power to inspire change.

Average Rating: 8.4/10
Reviews Counted: 26
Fresh: 26
Rotten: 0

Critics Consensus: Impeccably crafted and edited, The Interrupters is a tough and honest documentary about street violence that truly has the power to inspire change.


Average Rating: 4/5
User Ratings: 5,082


Movie Info

The Interrupters tells the moving and surprising stories of three Violence Interrupters who try to protect their Chicago communities from the violence they once employed. From acclaimed director Steve James and bestselling author Alex Kotlowitz, this film is an unusually intimate journey into the stubborn persistence of violence in our cities. Shot over the course of a year out of Kartemquin Films, The Interrupters captures a period in Chicago when it became a national symbol for the violence in … More

Documentary , Special Interest
Directed By:
Written By:
Alex Kotlowitz
In Theaters:
Feb 13, 2012
Box Office:
Cinema Guild - Official Site


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Critic Reviews for The Interrupters

All Critics (84) | Top Critics (26) | Fresh (84) | Rotten (0) | DVD (3)

Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra used to instigate Chicago street violence. Now they live for nipping it in the bud, block by treacherous block.

Full Review… | December 8, 2011
Dallas Morning News
Top Critic

Where James's film excels is as direct experiential cinema -- without narration, onscreen interviews or acknowledgment of the presence of the camera -- it is an intensely dramatic window into a world.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
Globe and Mail
Top Critic

A sobering but not hopeless look at how the Windy City is attempting to turn around a rising tide of street shooting, through the work of a unique group called CeaseFire.

Full Review… | October 6, 2011
Toronto Star
Top Critic

There's no doubt The Interrupters do some good; but there's also no doubt the problem they're facing is enormous.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
Detroit News
Top Critic

Realistically inspiring and, thankfully, not overly dramatized.

Full Review… | September 16, 2011
Washington Post
Top Critic

The immediacy and caprice of violence in "The Interrupters'' are just as strong as in nearly every documentary I've seen about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Full Review… | September 15, 2011
Boston Globe
Top Critic

For about $1,000 every two weeks, these people try to make a concrete, palpable change in a community that fights them at every turn. What's amazing is not whether or not they're effective; what's amazing is that they even try at all.

Full Review… | June 22, 2013

If the lack of progress in Chicago is upsetting, the reassurance of James' unparalleled talent is inspiring. He is not just one of the United States' most vital and humane filmmakers, but one of the world's.

Full Review… | July 5, 2012

The Interrupters is a heavyweight film about a heavyweight subject of clear interest well beyond the United States.

Full Review… | June 18, 2012
Sight and Sound

It's lazy critical shorthand to point out that good documentaries often feature better characterizations than even the best fiction films, but The Interrupters certainly justifies such a cliché.

Full Review… | June 11, 2012

The cameras take us where few people dare go.

Full Review… | February 26, 2012
Movie Metropolis

The revelations and examples of this positive influence seeping into the skin of the city creates enormous cinematic and community excitement.

Full Review… | February 26, 2012

Much like the director's seminal doc, this is a richly-drawn slice of real life that's weaved with the finesse of a fine Hollywood drama.

Full Review… | January 25, 2012
What Culture

Present[s] a gratifyingly non-cynical take on the troubles facing the species, uplifting without being cloying.

Full Review… | December 14, 2011
Antagony & Ecstasy

Though formally conventional, it carries a powerful message about the reality of life in the inner city and the struggles of thise who live there to break the cycle of violence.

Full Review… | December 9, 2011
One Guy's Opinion

Reality movie-making at a high point.

Full Review… | December 9, 2011
Ozus' World Movie Reviews

The courage, determination and intelligence of these violence interrupters is inspiring, but even more inspiring are the people trying so hard to overcome this plague of violence and live decent lives.

Full Review… | December 3, 2011
Laramie Movie Scope

Chronicles 'one year in the life of a city grappling with violence,' when Chicago was labeled a 'war zone.' Laments a funeral home director: 'How can the President of the United States be a black man... but I'm still burying black kids?'

Full Review… | November 17, 2011
Commercial Appeal (Memphis, TN)

A cry of hope from communities of despair.

Full Review… | November 11, 2011

James and Kotlowitz are unsparing in their depiction of how rough life in Chicago's mean streets can get. Nonetheless, they also have a deep compassion for the people they follow.

Full Review… | October 21, 2011
KC Active

The Interrupters is a film that offers an unflinching look at urban violence but also introduces a ray of hope.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
Jam! Movies

There are moments when The Interrupters feels like a real-life version of The Wire, with weary heroes trudging forever uphill to make their ugly world a slightly better place. The problem is that it's a very repetitive film.

Full Review… | October 7, 2011
NOW Toronto

It's a year in the life and death of the fight against the streetwise status quo, and James' doc brings it all horrifically home.

Full Review… | September 30, 2011
Austin Chronicle

Audience Reviews for The Interrupters

A powerful look at the epidemic of violence in Chicago. Director Steve James is right on the front lines of a war that Americans do their best to ignore. There are no gimmicks to be found here. Just a raw look at those doing their best to make a difference in a city beset by bedlam.

Reid Volk

Super Reviewer


The Interrupters blends the 'fly on the wall' documentary style with the history lesson perfectly. This is a very intelligent, unbiased and pretty unique documentary about gangs, youth and violence of the deteriorating suburbs of Chicago. The Interrupters capture real people and real events quite exceptionally, there is always the argument that as soon as you start documenting something or filming it, it has changed from what it was/is/will become. This doesn't seem to be the case here, people reactions seem completely natural, when you see the desperation, anger and frustration from so many of the people involved, you just know it's not for the camera. It's not just the 'easy' or more obvious things we see here either, typically when you point a camera you can get arguments, fights, tears etc but here we see remorse, apology and regret - and not because it makes them look self righteous either. Many of the scenes are shocking to people who live outside this world but there is a lot of heart in this film, a real inside view amids the often sensationalised and inaccurate tabloid news stories. The Interrupters are an amazing group of people, maybe the cure the area needs and maybe a formula every problem area could learn from as long as it's not exploited. A great documentary.

Anthony Lawrie

Super Reviewer


A deeply depressing, saddening documentary concerning the violence on the streets of Chicago, and how a group of former gang-members give their best efforts to destroy the "disease" that infects the culture they were once apart of. Steve James, no stranger to creating relentlessly nihilistic backdrops that his characters do not realize they can not get out of (seen also in the devastating "Hoop Dreams"), paints a vivid, somber portrait here. It is definitely difficult not to be in awe in this group of individuals trying to stop the chaos, as the genuine concern and sympathy to stop others from going down the same road they did is shown in outstanding detail. Quite simply, this is one of the better documentaries put out in quite some time, matching up against 2010's "Exit at the Gift Shop". It is a very tough watch though, as life on the street is not fun to see and the senseless, arrogant, misinformed young people that throw their lives away for what they confuse to be for a good cause (loyalty, vengeance, etc...) is downright sickening. But it is a story that needs to be seen, heard, and talked about, and James impeccably crafts this - it will not leave you quickly.

Dan Schultz
Dan Schultz

Super Reviewer

a powerful doc from the director of 'hoop dreams,' the film shows the work of violence interrupters, former gang members and ex cons who intervene in disputes and try to diffuse the situations, in the wake of an unprecedented level of youth violence in chicago. kids of 15 and even younger dying in the streets over perceived slights in an endless cycle of paybacks and reprisals, heaps of stuffed animals at death site memorials, raw emotions of family and friends and their interactions with the people who try to break the chains of gang violence. very emotional and inspiring to see good results in some cases. this is streaming on pbs in the US for a limited time:

Stella Dallas

Super Reviewer

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