New York. The land of the free. The magnificent view of the Manhattan skylines spread across the horizon is breathtaking. It is also a sign of the prosperous America that’s often known as the land of opportunities. Opportunities or choices are something that cannot be created. Or can they? Can something that is governed by law and statutes be overturned by sheer brute force and power? Welcome to New York. The land of corruption, ruled by the Italian mafia. Netflix’s new documentary ‘Fear City: New York vs The Mafia’ is all about the power of mafia that once controlled the whole of New York. In a 3 episode limited series, it’s a true story, retold from the point of view of the investigators, the mafia who were involved in it and some tapes. In those tapes, lies the scandalous and criminally indoctrinated lives of the mafia bosses, who ran the businesses around New York like a corporation house.

‘Fear City’ begins its tale in the late seventies- early eighties, when New York was yet to become the New York, as it’s known today. Every mom and pop store, garments business, restaurants, factories, construction businesses, the Mafia had their fingers in every pie. It was well thought of, perfectly planned business plan, which was virtually impenetrable by the law authorities. ‘Fear City’ tells the story of the law enforcement authorities who re-envisioned the law that was written for the scums but never put into action. The RICO act, whose sole intention was to catch the real culprits and not just their foot soldiers, empowered the authorities to go after the Mafia bosses. With bugging their homes, cars, restaurants with listening devices, the investigators could now directly listen to their conversations and their criminal deals.

Directed by Sam Hobkinson, ‘Fear City’ is a true crime story that plays in flashbacks. It takes the viewer through the five major mob families – Gambino, Bonnano, Colombo, Lucchese and Genovese and their hardcore approach to control every business in and around the city of New York. Their criminal empire had risen to such heights that a stop had to be put to it. The investigators, going through hours and hours of tapes and other pieces of evidence, started to put together the MO of these mob families. What they uncovered was astounding. It was a structured business that started from foot soldiers, who reported to Captains, who then reported to an underboss who went back to the boss. This structure was controlled by a corporation led by the five mob families who decided the business models and its profiteering by assigning work to a selected club of organisations. It wasn’t a criminal empire anymore. It was a bloody fortune 500 organisation! Credit must go to the creators to have come up with such detailed insight into the world of mafia. From the investigators, it was the team effort of some braveheart officers and attorneys namely Joseph O’ Brian and Rudy Giuliani, who led the case.

If you’re a fan of ‘Goodfellas’ or ‘The Irishman’, then this is a must-watch for you. More than the criminals, it’s a tell-tale of the mob business, done the right way. If you sit through the three episodes, aptly named ‘Mob Rules’, ‘Godfather Days’ and ‘The Judgment Day’, each running 45-60 minutes, you will catch the current American president gloating through his glee of becoming the number one construction company of the world!


The Cinemawala Rating: 3/5

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