Filmmaker Yoav Potash's multiyear commitment to a labyrinthine legal miscarriage yields a fine-grained chronicle of L.A. corruption---no revelation, given that city's history, but catnip for fans of twisty, municipal shenanigans. The dignified presence at the heart of the case is Debbie Peagler, a graying, incarcerated thinker whose 1983 conviction for murder (she pled guilty to avoid the death penalty) was challenged after the law caught up to her status as a battered woman. As Peagler's cause
is taken up, circa 2002, by two lefty pro bono attorneys, a tenacious private eye and even the band Arrested Development, we watch as powerful government figures try to spare themselves some retroactive embarrassment by bringing it to a halt.
Potash orchestrates the paper chase to a brisk tempo and even tracks down his villain---entrenched Republican D.A. Steve Cooley---with his camera. So why the reservations? There's no getting around the gloopy sentimentality the doc sometimes courts: teary-eyed protestations of stamina (especially cringeworthy from the defense team itself), a saccharine score and, even if true, a last-act life-threatening disease. The tale itself is extraordinary, so why not let it do the talking? When Crime After Crime sifts through the facts, we feel the pull of justice; those moments might be enough.
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