REVIEW: Crimetown (Podcast)

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The Best Gangster Movie You’ve Ever Heard

A thief turned drug lord named Charles Kennedy owns multiple wolves. He loved them deeply, even grew fond of their howls throughout the twilight hours. One night, a wolf disappears. Seconds later he hears gunshots. “They got her,” Charles says stoically. In the distance, the sound of violins wail cinematically.

Now, I’ve never sat in the same room as anybody from the Providence, Rhode Island cosa nostra but I’ve heard them talk. And they’re not afraid to spill their guts.

Crimetown is a new podcast from Marc Smerling and Zachary Stuart-Pontier, the team behind HBO’s True Crime doc series, The Jinx. The podcast began its 20 episode run on November 20 of 2016. Crimetown, which just debuted episode 10 last Sunday, explores the culture of crime in different American cities, with Providence being the focus of season one.

The True Crime genre is hot. Hotter than it’s ever been before with a slew of new multi-part documentary odysseys and podcasts popping up. The culprit of what kickstarted this resurgence is Serial, which took a long defunct murder case and looked into it again. Before that True Crime existed mainly in print form but Serial finally united the genre with its most complementary storytelling format: the podcast. The research remains the same but now you get a more intimate look at the reporter’s themselves through hearing their speaking style. But interviews are where the form shines;  the listener gets to experience the subjects in a manor that’s close to how the original interviewers did. We are able to hear all the nuance in their voice instead of just the text transcriptions. Podcasts also allow for a serialization that creates a tension/urgency for next week’s fix.

The interviews is where Crimetown stands out in an insanely crowded field (since Serial, other True Crime podcasts include Cincinnati Enquirer’s Accused, EarlWolf’s Stranglers, and the self-admitted amateur investigation of Up and Vanished). Smerling and Stuart-Pontier’s access they have is incredible with former mobsters openly admitting to committing various illegal acts. These interviews are often layered behind soundscapes or period music. The subjects are disarmingly candid about their lives. They almost sound like auditions for a Sopranos spin-off and would be ridiculous if they weren’t so honest.

Most episodes run only a half hour, yet they are dense. At the halfway point, the story has already spanned decades. Like the tentacles in the show’s promo image, Crimetown is wide reaching, willing to get into every crevice of Providence, RI. It should be overbearing, with too much information and content but the characters are so memorable and each episode so focused that you never feel lost.

Crimetown plays more like a Scorsese movie than a historical document. It is an instant classic in the genre and demonstrates an absolute mastery in the True Crime podcasting genre.

All episodes of Crimetown available online or on your phone’s podcast app. 

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