The Interrupters - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

The Interrupters Reviews

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Super Reviewer
March 20, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
½ February 24, 2012
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.
Super Reviewer
March 15, 2013
Even with the precarious message of hope that the heartrending documentary "The Interrupters" delivers, from watching the news it is painfully clear that violence is still a huge problem plaguing the youth of Chicago since the release of this potent film.

Take away those news cameras and wait for the police presence to retreat(who in the documentary are best viewed as outsiders by people in the neighborhood), life goes on and people die which is where the interrupters of Cease Fire Illinois come in, as we get a streel level view over the period of a year in Chicago. They are all former convicts and reformed gangbangers who speak from experience in their role as mediator, counselor, mentor and referee, as an added form of penance, with otherwise their lives being back on track. The focus in the documentary is on Eddie Bocanegra, Ameena Matthews and Cobe Williams who ironically lives out in the country. Basically, aside from directly intervening in violent acts(one scene involves a fight outside of a Cease Fire office with people too aggravated to notice they are being filmed), they seek to stop violence from happening before it has a chance to escalate and most admirably to change the way people think, starting with speaking to students who often feel they do not have a future with Bocanegra going one step further by sharing his artwork with them.
Super Reviewer
August 13, 2011
The Interrupters bares more than a passing resembles to the HBO TV series The Wire - except it's a documentary and it's all true. At nearly three hours, this searing, immersive documentary looks at a group called CeaseFire, an organization in Chicago set up by a doctor who has theorised that the cycle of violence spreads like a virus, and that preventative measures might be better than, for example, increasing police. Some areas in Chicago have exceptionally high rates of violent crime and statistically a young person is more likely to die from a shooting or stabbing than from anything else. "The Interrupters" refers to the brave group of people, all of whom who have grown up in Chicago and whom in their past have experienced first hand the drugs, violence, and incarceration that practically seems predetermined in some areas, and who now talk to individuals and groups and act as peacekeepers, or, where necessary, 'interrupters' literally putting themselves in the midst of dangerous scenes to stop violence escalating, and to prevent retaliatory violence and shootings. The documentary concentrates on three of these interrupters and throughout the film details their pasts and what they now do in CeaseFire. Often times their role might just be to listen to what people are saying, or to calm them down, and sometimes they might have to be much more involved. We get to follow some of the people they are working with or the groups they are involved with, and they run the gamut from working one-to-one to get estranged brothers talking to themselves and their mother, through to work with classes of schoolchildren on anti-violence projects, through to speaking at funerals to beg for the violence to stop, or to ensure the people they're with make a promise to not retaliate - all of which has varying but absolutely noticeable effect in terms of violence committed. One especially powerful moment shows one of the interrupters literally breaking up a fight in the moment rocks are thrown - surely preventing murder on the streets in broad daylight. Though clocking in at nearly three hours, there's barely a frame that seems misplaced and if anything the film could have been even more exhaustive (we barely see for example, the involvements of police or government aside from a few news clips and archive footage) though this may have been at the expensive of the personal stories, all of which are touching. The Interrupters themselves should be seen as nothing less than heroes; their work is valuable and certainly saves lives.
Super Reviewer
October 27, 2011
Duke's wake broke any chance of me not crying while watching this documentary because the emotion of his girlfriend speaking in his behalf. She is the heart, the essence of the ripple effect this violence causes to the families and loved ones of the fallen. The work of The Interrupters is sometimes not rewarded with immediate success but they feel this undying passion to deviate these young kids from seeking revenge for their fallen family members and friends.

The head of The Interrupters program went to visit and Interrupter of his in the hospital who had been shot in the back and ankle and he was trying so hard to keep composed when visiting him in the hospital. It wasn't for any other reason than t"they didn't know him" so they shot him while he was working with some of the kids he does know. They put themselves on the front lines of an epidemic of violence and they know they could die at any moment.

There is this candid interview with Ameena Matthews's(one of the interrepters) husband where he describes how fearless she is by saying "she would go face-to-face with a lion and wouldn't back down." Her life and what she does now has made her a fearless activist to stop the violence in the streets of Chicago for peace and that is worth more to her than her own life. It is gorgeous to watch what these people do to, to be a grain of thought in the minds of people who want to kill, to stop that line of thinking. Their purpose and cause is their redemption from their own past lives of crime by stopping others from go down the paths they went.

Their work is tough though, Flamo one of the people they wanted to stop from retaliating was filled with such anger and sadness, he was like a brick wall but when they interrupted his verbal tirade aimed at the people who killed his friend by offering to take him out to lunch, it diffused him and it was amazing to watch. I could feel the tension permeating off of him and could see the blood lust in his eyes to avenge his fallen comrade but when they offered him a peaceful lunch and cooled him down and took him to one of their "Ceasefire" meetings his eyes widened and he just listened to what they had to say.

This documentary is incredibly good and its relevance is not just in Chicago but worldwide as a message of peace even amidst a place where the violence seems ceaseless, there are people willing to talk a man with a gun down and out of causing violence. Please, watch this documentary.
Super Reviewer
March 10, 2013
The Interrupters forgoes the intimate personalization of its subjects that made James' previous work Hoop Dreams so special, and the result is revealing but ultimately bland and dawdling look at gang violence in Chicago.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
½ January 28, 2012
This is a brilliant documentary from Steve James who also made the great "Hoop Dreams". "The Interrupters" is about a group of intelligent individuals Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra who look back on their past experiences and to try and steer young men and women in the right direction. Steer those away from the street life and violence. To be honest I didn't really care about the ongoing violence that plagues America today but cared deeply more for Interrupters Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra who try to help others who come from hard economic upbrinings. To really put a positive effect in their communities and for the better.

The biggest moments is when Interrupters Cobie Williams helps another man named Flamo. Flamo comes from a rough neighbourhood, has done jail time, has four kids and sadly sells drugs on the side. There is a scene when Flamo is pissed off because an incident he tells to Williams about his mom. Williams tells Flamo he can turn his life around. Flamo doesn't want to listen but there is an inner part of him that wants to listen and in one of the great scenes is later seen being very happy working at a real job. It may not be the best job in the world but it beats hustling, getting in to trouble or possibly being killed. Flamo is a character I cared for deeply.

The hardest scenes for me to watch is between Ameena Matthews and a young teenage girl who she is trying desperately to help. Ameena somewhat fails but there is a revealing moment where she knows that the same teenage girl is one day going to be Ameena's age wishing she had someone who cared to steer in the right direction life. The teenage girl doesn't see it but eventually that moment will catch up to her.

It's very difficult for me to put the rest of the picture into understanding words. That's just how powerful this documentary is because each scene was watching a revealing discovery. The real honest truth about life in society. "The Interrupters" is not about controversial race issues or stereotypical elements that is constantly shown on TV but more focused on that one glimmer of hope and that one glimmer of life. Helping those and seeing those who were troubled working and contributing to life. This is the greatness of this picture this is what imo Steve James set out to do and he has done so with great empathy.

*Note* I didn't talk about Eddie Bocanegra who is just as important. A man who is really a leader teaching to young kids, to paint, to be happy and caring in the classroom. Bocanegra has also done time but that doesn't stop him from trying to accomplish his dream. To help the next generation so they don't suffer from the ongoings of violence.
½ February 3, 2015
Fifteen years after his groundbreaking, outstanding Hoop Dreams, director Steve James returns with this vital, extraordinary documentary that returns him to the streets of Chicago with journalist Alex Kotlowitz. Together they put an all too human face on inner city violence. The two men and one woman featured in this powerful film are known as 'violence interrupters'. Their mission is to step in and mediate situations so as to deter violence before it even begins. All of them are former gang member and violent offenders themselves. James' once again demonstrates the importance of attention to detail. It's essential viewing.
April 16, 2012
Good...very good...probably would have rated it higher (and many have) had I not watched five seasons of The Wire, which portrayed this random senseless violence on almost every episode...that woman was a miracle worker...a saint...
March 22, 2012
A peak into Chicago's gangs and violence that will leave you feeling about 14 different emotions. Well done. That's what I like when I watch a film.
March 8, 2012
The Interrupters does not need a talking head to get its point across. The camera drops right into middle of the anger and violence of gangland Chicago. What is captured on camera is not amazing for shock value purposes. It is amazing because it is incredibly real and quite emotional at times.
March 5, 2012
Takes you into the streets of Chicago where gang shootings & killings take place all too often, & shows the people who in the middle of violence & the people trying to stop them from shooting. A group called "Cease Fire."
½ March 1, 2012
Steve James continues his extraordinary documentary work with a passion project on the black-on-black violence within inner city Chicago. His juxtaposition of the three "Violence Interrupters"'s work and their own personal lives/demons is a perfect character study apparatus for a documentary; simple, yet effective in showing who each of these three people are and why the put themselves on the line in such a dangerous place.
½ February 11, 2012
One of the best documentaries I've seen in a long time. Interrupters is a extremely watchable film that drops you right in the center of a commuity in crisis, then watches its residents try
to rebuild it piece by 'peace'.
November 18, 2011
Documentary films are an interesting bag. Things like The History Channel and news networks are massively popular but when it comes to feature length documentaries, far fewer people find themselves well versed in the genre. I would venture a guess that that is because the majority of people who go out to the theater or stay in with a movie for the night are seeking escape from real life. Sometimes that does include sad movies, and even those that are based on real events. But at the end of the day even those movies have actors pretending in front of the screen. Knowing that a film is real, and even more that those on screen are real, going through their actual lives, can have a devastating impact, especially when those people, those lives, and those situations are as startling as the ones in The Interrupters.

Steve James made a major impact in the documentary world with his 1993 film Hoop Dreams, which chronicled the lives of two high school basketball players in Chicago. James stays in the battle ground of Chicago for his latest documentary, which follows the Violence Interrupters of Chicago more volatile neighborhoods. The interrupters, which include Ameena Matthews, Cobe Williams and Eddie Bocanegra, belong to the organization called Cease Fire, which campaigns on the streets of Chicago for non-violence in the resolution of conflict, most notably between gangs. Chicago is one of the most deadly turfs in America, especially when it comes to young kids whose lives either go nowhere, or end altogether.

I guess the best way to begin would be to say that these people are now my own personal heroes. The film, which covers the circumstances found in these troubled neighborhoods is gut wrenching to witness, but at the end of the day the film is titled The Interrupters. It is about these people as much if not more than it is about the countless people who are killed every week in Chicago. Ameena, Cobe and Eddie are unique in their own ways, but each are cut from the same cloth, and that is one of a lifetime of violence in a world where dreams hardly ever to come true. Each were involved with the violence they are now trying to prevent. Cobe served time, and Eddie served 14 years for murder. It is their stories which give hope to the ones around them.

James and his crew spent a whole year following these remarkable people and for every incident they were able to successfully intervene, there are seemingly dozens of others they cannot quite get to, including the murder of more than a couple young people. It is harrowing to witness such circumstances, and difficult to envision a successful outcome for these residents, but I will be darned if the interrupters do not give it their all to do everything in their power to help make it happen. Ameena Matthews is a stronger, more determined woman than I have ever seen. This is a film that really helps to show what the problem is. The comparison it makes between violence and a disease is apt. Violence is a learned behavior and living in a neighborhood where jobs are nearly impossible to come by, it can become a disease, not a choice.

Knowing that the film is factual, that these people are real human beings makes it that more effective. The key to a good documentary is a string subject matter and this one is moving to the point of tears, tears of sorrow, but also those of joy and hope for the strength of the human spirit shown by these wonderful people. But the key to a great documentary lies in how its director is able to piece it all together and Steve James is that man, knowing exactly when to reveal to the audience each piece of the puzzle. We learn about the current for these interrupters before we learn about their past, which makes their determination and attitudes that much more impactful. The Interrupters is a great American documentary and almost certainly a lock for a nomination at this years Academy Awards, but what is more is that it is also a great American film which explores the many facets of the difficulty of living in a troubled Chicago neighborhood with no outlook up or out.
½ May 21, 2015
I found this pretty interesting as are most of the people involved. It reminded me of the Guardian Angels in New York a lot. It's way too long though, as a one hour TV programme this would have been perfect, at over 2 hours it felt very stretched. Some really touching scenes mind you.
September 19, 2014
Makes its case convincingly: a violent culture needs a strong religion.
August 3, 2011
A year in the life of Violence Interrupters in some of the most violent communities in Chicago. A great exploration.
½ May 31, 2014
This is a film that for me brought me into a whole different world then i am used to, profiling a group i was unaware of and glad exists. Good to see the people of this community are being proactive, they are the only ones who can truly stop the violence. The only weakness of this film is its a little to long, could have cut out 20-30 min.
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