DVD REVIEW: Murder City (Detroit: 100 Years Of Crime & Violence)

Murder City: 100 Years of Crime and Violence in Detroit chronicles the story of gang violence in the city of Detroit over the last century. Who could have known there would be so many stories to tell? The film generally gives some background information on the oldest city in the Midwest and then launches into a documentary style expose on the former murder capital.

As an urban epicenter, Detroit has very real economic and social problems that create the perfect atmosphere for crime and violence; for drug dealers and drug users. The film tells the very real stories of Detroit gangsters using archival news footage and photos. One of the most interesting stories is of The Purple Gang, a group of Jewish mobsters who helped Al Capone smuggle liquor over the Detroit River into the United States from Canada. The Purple Gang is believed to have been the hit squad that traveled to Chicago execute The St. Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929.

From gangs of the prohibition era to the Black gangs of the Reagan era, Murder City leaves no stone unturned. The film retells the story of White Boy Rick Wershe who was a legendary drug dealer and part of the “Best Friends” gang. Wershe was one of the city’s most infamous drug traffickers and is currently serving a life sentence. Murder City also retells the story of The Chambers Brothers who were featured on BET’s American Gangster. Their story unfolds the same. They made a lot of money and were eventually undone by their own mistakes.

From the organized criminal gangs of the 1980’s, Murder City also touches on more recent criminal enterprises like Black Mafia Family. The Flenory brothers were recently sentenced to thirsty years in prison for their involvement in a drug enterprise which supposedly netted over two hundred seventy million dollars. The Flenory brothers hailed from Detroit.

The stories of Detroit’s notorious criminals are interspersed with real life drug stories in the film. Local music artists, police officers, and others tell their crime stories on film. They chronicle losing loved ones to violence, as well as their own experiences. The real life stories add a humanizing element.

The film was written and directed by Detroit native and life long resident, Al Profit. He got the idea for the film after working in the Department of Urban Studies at Wayne State University. After studying and researching statistic after statistic on the city, Profit knew there was a story, “In a city with a three hundred year history, there are a lot of stories one could tell.” he says, “However, crime is something that affects us all. If you live in Detroit you know someone who has been killed or has killed someone.”