James's non-interventionist technique (he is never seen nor heard) allows for the violence interrupters and the people they come into contact with to remain as the central focus of the film, developing as it does into a portrait of inner city life that stands as a richly detailed microcosm of world-wide urban problems. Poverty, lack of education, diminishing life prospects, crumbling social structures and territorial pride dominate the everyday lives of The Interrupters' subjects. Ameena Matthews, daughter of one of the city's most infamous gang leaders, and one time gang member herself, Cobe Williams, whose relative youth provides an important link to the city's youths,and Eddie Bocanegra, who killed a rival gang member during his life as a one time prolific car thief, are just three of the interrupters followed as they try to keep tensions between the gangs and the locals at bay. These alternately fearsomely straight talking, rueful, experienced and reformed characters are the eyes and ears of the audience on these sadly embattled streets. Moments of tenderness, humour and humanity counter-balance the grimly depressing surrounding environment, senseless violence and inter-family divides.
What could have been a worthy, 'educational' documentary is, in the hands of James, a thoughtful, enlightening and ultimately hopeful insight into the ongoing attempts of largely neglected communities to bring an end, or at least a noticeable reduction, to the crime, drug abuse and sense of despair that threatens to engulf their neighbourhoods. Inspirational and unmissable.