History Channel // 2009 // 517 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Victor Valdivia (Retired) // August 9th, 2010
They're fierce, brutal, and ruthless -- and bent on leaving their deadly mark on the streets of America.
In its fourth season, Gangland seemed to be running out of gas. Though some episodes were still interesting, there were far too many that were repetitive and focused on insignificant subjects. In Gangland: Season Five, there does appear to be more of a balance. There's actually some historical content, and there are some stories that need to be told. Overall, it's a better season than the fourth, although it's still hard to shake the feeling that the show really should quit while it's ahead.
Here are the eleven episodes compiled on three discs:
* "Klan of Killers"
The Imperial Klans of America is one of the fastest-growing white supremacist gangs in the South and is becoming more involved with acts of violence against minorities.
* "Machete Slaughter"
Los Trinitarios began as a Dominican prison gang in New York but has spread throughout the East Coast due to their gruesome skills with machetes.
* "Blood River"
Barrio Azteca is one of the largest Chicano gangs in Texas but has become increasingly more dangerous now that they've allied with some of the deadliest drug cartels in Mexico.
* "Hustle or Die"
The Four Corner Hustlers began as one of Chicago's most dangerous black street gangs and then embarked on a vicious war of self-destruction in the '80s and '90s that changed the city forever.
* "Gangsta Killers"
Having begun as an aspiring rap group, Top 6 has mutated into one of Florida's most violent street gangs, terrorizing the Haitian community of West Palm Beach with a savagery unseen before.
* "The Death Head"
In the 1990s, the Hell's Angels embarked on the bloodiest biker war in Canadian history under the leadership of infamous biker kingpin Maurice "Mom" Boucher.
* "Circle of Death"
The Aryan Circle began as a close-knit elite white prison gang in Texas, but its rapid growth has led to some shocking acts of violence on the outside.
* "Dog Fights"
The Bulldogs are the largest and most dangerous gang in Fresno, CA and are so coldblooded that they even take on cops with impunity.
* "Evil Breed"
The Breed rules Philadelphia as a tiny but brutally efficient biker gang that functions more like the Mafia than other outlaw clubs.
* "Hunt and Kill"
Nashville's newest criminal threat is a fast-growing Chicano gang named Brown Pride, a gang so tough that it's faced down the sadistic MS-13 and remained strong.
* "Deadly Blast"
Tango Blast is the largest prison gang in Texas, with some 14,000 members that wield power ruthlessly over other inmates and even out on the streets.
There are some remarkable stories here. The story of the Hell's Angels' Canadian war is one that most people in the United States haven't heard, even though it was as brutal as any Latin American civil war and cost many innocent civilians their lives. Similarly, the episodes on white supremacist gangs are worth seeing to see just how these groups have formed and how they have begun to increase their visibility even as the U.S. becomes more multicultural. It's also fascinating to see how the cultural oppression felt by immigrant groups like Haitians in Florida and Dominicans in New York, much more from other minorities than whites, led to the foundation of some of the worst gangs ever formed.
Still, even though this has a better mix of episodes and more consistent storytelling than the previous season, Gangland just doesn't quite pack the punch it once did. There are far too many moments that are simply echoes of earlier episodes (usually when gangbangers proclaim, no matter where they're from, that "It's all about the money!"), and it's true that most gangs aren't really that different from one another. That may be a necessary hazard of long-running nonfiction shows, especially ones built on such a narrow premise, but it does tend to make this less compelling than it should be. When Gangland premiered, it was interesting to see gang stories dissected from the inside out, but by now the novelty has worn off. The show just isn't as shocking, even despite some of the horror stories heard here. It's better than the fourth season, which was dull and numbing to an unpleasant degree, but only viewers who are really interested in the subject will get the most out of this set.
Ultimately, this is a better season for Gangland than the previous one. In its best episodes it equals the highpoints of the earlier seasons. It also remains cheap and profitable for History, so there's no doubt that the series will certainly continue. Nonetheless, though longtime fans will have no problem picking up this set to round out their collections, this is not the best season for newcomers. Start with the earlier ones first.
Technical specs are typical History: non-anamorphic 1.78:1 transfer, Dolby stereo mix, both acceptable. There are no extras.
Review content copyright © 2010 Victor Valdivia; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: History Channel
* 1.78:1 Non-Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo (English)
Running Time: 517 Minutes
Release Year: 2009
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Website