The Cartel
The Cartel (2010)

About The Cartel | Teachers punished for speaking out. Principals fired for trying to do the right thing. Union leaders defending the indefensible. Bureaucrats blocking new charter schools. These are just some of the people we meet in The… More

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Rated: Unrated
Running Time:
Release Date: April 15, 2010
DVD Release Date: September 12, 2014
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Critic Score: 47% Rotten Tomatoes™ Critic Reviews

Consensus: Director Bob Bowdon may make some strong points in The Cartel, but they're drowned out by his grating screen presence and amateurish filmmaking.

Lisa Kennedy
Denver Post

With its clunky chalkboard chapters and a parade of static talking heads too often repeating the filmmaker's underlying theme of political corruption and union myopia, it's a C theatrical experience. Maybe a C+ for right intentions.

Wesley Morris
Boston Globe

Bowdon makes an insufferable first impression, and his movie often looks as if it were shot with a camera-phone (for good measure, he includes actual camera-phone footage, which admittedly looks worse than his).

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Ian Buckwalter

But this amateurish, ultimately poorly argued documentary isn't likely to convert many of those on the fence on this issue.

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Michael O'Sullivan
Washington Post

The film -- for which Bowdon directed, wrote, narrated, produced, operated a camera, composed music and sang -- spends a little too much time on static shots of flickering computer screens filled with gray text, and it has the look of cheap video.

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J. R. Jones
Chicago Reader

Bowdon makes a compelling argument against the defensive maneuvers of teachers' unions and in favor of vouchers and charter schools, but his documentary is no exercise in free-market cant.

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Cynthia Fuchs

In The Cartel, New Jersey public schools are an example of what's going wrong in U.S. school systems generally, despite a "spending explosion."

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Colin Covert
Minneapolis Star Tribune

There are plenty of legitimate grievances here, but like Michael Moore at his pushiest, Bowdon often undermines his own argument with obvious factual cherry-picking.

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Joe Williams
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Watching this film, you'd think that most public schools were Mafia-run slaughterhouses and most charter schools were urban academies with high success rates. Bowdon barely mentions the religiosity and profit motive behind some charter schools.

Sarah Boslaugh
Playback:stl will more likely find yourself annoyed by this documentary's similarity to a series of television segments pasted together and stretched out to 90 minutes...

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