When someone comments that it’s tough being a kid these days, they’re not foolin’. In fact, they may not even know the half of it. Be in the wrong place at the wrong time, hang with the wrong crowd, look a little differently and you may find yourself the object of a witch hunt, ultimately landing you in more trouble than anyone could ever have imagined. Just ask the West Memphis Three and they’ll tell you all about it. Now, William Gazecki’s documentary “Reckless Indifference” brings you a true-life tale of another group of teens spending questionable time behind bars.
Unlike the West Memphis Three, however, the teens in “Reckless Indifference” are the kinds of kids you wouldn’t mind seeing receive a little strict punishment. You know, to straighten their a***s out. I’m sure you know plenty of kids just like this – punk a***s with no respect for anything or anyone. So, as the story here is re-enacted, we’re shown four drunken teenage boys in Augora Hills paying a little visit to a local pot dealer’s hideaway. Whether they were there to rip him off, or to make a purchase is never determined. Either way, a fight breaks out, ending in the stabbing of two kids – the dealer, Mike McLoren, and his friend Jimmy Farris. McLoren miraculously survived the ordeal while Farris bled to death. And so begins the trial of four teenage boys who are being charged with felony/murder.
It’s a sad and tragic story indeed, but it’s not the most fascinating one, is it? I mean, doesn’t this kind of stuff happen all the time? So what’s the deal here? Why a documentary? To be honest, throughout the first half hour of this film I had no idea and I wasn’t very interested. Plus, the film’s awful, overbearing soundtrack was doing everything it could to push me as far away from the subject matter as possible. It’s kinda hard to focus on a serious subject when you have someone wailing away on their axe right in your eye almost non-stop. In short, I had had enough.
But the film continues and things finally get interesting as we’re shown that the tragedy didn’t stop at McLoren’s hideaway, but continued right into the courtroom. You see, this whole thing went down in 1995, shortly after OJ’s high profile trial. To make up for that major embarrassment, the D.A.’s office was under pressure for convictions and this case was going to end in just that. Add that to the fact that the dead Jimmy Farris happened to be the son of a Los Angeles police officer and these kids were going down. Things were going to get real ugly and real ugly things got. Mixing trial footage with interviews with the families of the teens, attorneys, law enforcement agents and journalists, we’re shown what a brutal witch hunt this trail became, preying more on the jury’s fear, building these kids up to be monsters, rather than observing cold hard facts. A witch hunt that revealed that it was only one of the boys who did the stabbing, that the other three didn’t even know there was a knife involved until after the fact. A witch hunt that ultimately sent all four of these boys to life in prison without the possibility of parole. One of these kids hadn’t even joined in on the fighting. He just stood in the doorway, watching the confusion in the dark shack. Yet, he, along with the rest of his friends, is spending life behind bars. Does that sound f****d up to you? It should and it also shocked most everyone observing the case.
But the movie continues and things actually get worse until you’re absolutely terrified of the American legal system. If you’re targeted for one reason or another, and all the right players are in place, you’re going away and there’s nothing anyone can say about it. Well, Gazecki has plenty to say about it and so do his subjects and there’s no mystyer as to how this film is geared to make you feel. But, despite the filmmaker’s upfront opinion on the matter, when one looks at the facts of what happened in and out of the courtroom, you can’t really help but get pissed off.