CAPSULE: A single documentary written and directed by John Ridley covers the entire Rodney King Incident from the decade-long buildup of anger to his high-speed chase to the riots that lasted for five days and did an estimated one billion dollars in damage and in which sixty people died. The style of the documentary is not groundbreaking, but it has a flow of witness testimony combined with footage of the surrounding events. The slow build-up of racial resentment increases over a decade of time until the release of hostility seems inevitable. The film is seemingly a very complete look at a decade of increasing racial hostility. Rating: +2 (-4 to +4) or 7/10
Last summer there were several cases of apparently the same story from different parts of the country. Police would deal with a man--usually black--being the victim of police brutality and/or racism. And the treatment was met with protests and protests that "black lives matter." To one degree or another they all were repeating the scenario of the Rodney King beating, the Rodney King Trial, and the Los Angeles race riots known as the Rodney King riots. LET IT FALL: LOS ANGELES 1982-1992 documents at length the story of the Rodney King riot, the trial that led up to the riots, and the years of racism that led to the Rodney King beatings.
In the 1940s and 1950s the Los Angeles police department enjoyed a very positive reputation with the public. It probably was looked upon as favorably as any police department in the country. There was even a radio and later television program, "Dragnet", that was based on actual police cases and which made a star of Jack Webb as Sergeant Joe Friday, Badge 714. But as South Central Los Angeles filled with greater numbers of ethnic minorities there was increasing friction among Blacks, Koreans, Hispanics, street-gangs, and drug dealers. The police's style dealing with affluent whites was generally respectful, but their treatment of minorities was more one of exhibiting power and force. Police who would be in South Central LA were trained not only in self-defense but in how best to restrain offenders with chokeholds, tasers, guns, etc.
On March 3, 1991, King was captured by the California Highway Patrol after a high-speed chase. The arresting officers from the LAPD brutally and horribly beat him. What the officers had not counted on was that the beating was filmed on a video camera. The video seemed to be incontrovertible proof of savage brutality from the police. But there is no criteria of what force is excessive.
The police were put on trial and to the surprise of many the jury found them to be not guilty. After the famous tape of the beating is shown, it is hard to interpret the arrest as anything less than illegally excessive force. This sparked a race riot of huge proportion. More than sixty people lost their lives and the looting and fires continued for five days.
Much of the anger was taken out against Korean shop-owners who had done little wrong but whom the rioters identified with their oppressors. Writer/director John Ridley's documentary shows the violence of the riots, the trial that led to the riots, the incident that led to the trial, and the years of racism that led to the incident. It is all told by witnesses to the actual events, on and off the street.
The Rodney King beating should not have led to the unreasoning riot that it did. But if it had not occurred, something worse probably would have happened elsewhere. LET IT FALL: LOS ANGELES 1982-1992 stands with last year's O.J.: MADE IN AMERICA and I AM NOT YOUR NEGRO as a powerful retrospective on the dynamics of United States race relations. I rate LET IT FALL a +2 on the -4 to +4 scale or 7/10. The film had a limited theatrical release in April 2017 at its full length of 144 minutes and a television showing a week later cut to about 90 minutes.
Film Credits: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt6379314/combined
What others are saying: https://www.rottentomatoes.com/m/let_it_fall_la_1982_1992
Mark R. Leeper Copyright 2017 Mark R. Leeper