HBO Doc ‘Life of Crime’ Chronicles Addiction

in Culture

Life of Crime: 1984-2020, a new documentary on HBO Max, follows three residents of Newark, New Jersey as they bounce back and forth between petty crime, drug addiction and jail time, interspersed with brief but hopeful bouts of sobriety. 

The documentary, as the title suggests, consists of footage filmed over the course of 36 years. As you make it further into the movie, the footage changes from grainy VCR tapes to crisp and clear digital images. 

As the type of footage changes, so too does the world depicted in each frame. Haircuts take on entirely different shapes. Pants widen and then shrink again. The three residents—Rob, Freddie and Deliris—grow up, and so do their children. 

Much of the documentary’s authority is derived from its lengthy production schedule. There are many films out there—fictional and non-fictional—that capture the many different shades of drug addiction, but hit quite as hard as this one. 

Lifelong Battles with Addiction

Courtesy of ‘Life of Crime’

Of course, Life of Crime did not really take 36 years to make. Though it may look as if director Jon Alpert spent every waking moment with his subjects, he actually shot the film piece by piece, returning to Newark periodically to catch up with the residents.

Most of these visits took place during the late ’80s, as Alpert spent much of the subsequent decade in the Middle East, where he retrieved footage of the Persian Gulf War and interviewed Iraqi leader Saddam Houssein. 

Though HBO may market Life of Crime as an original release, the documentary is not exactly new. Recordings from the ’80s and ’90s were previously released as their own features: A Year in the Life of Crime (1989) and Life of Crime 2 (1998).

After numerous people—including Alpert himself—warn Rob and Freddie about the …

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Author: Tim Brinkhof / High Times

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