(out of 5)

More in-your-face excellence from Spike Lee, whose adaptation of Richard Price’s novel about drug dealing on the streets of New York has its good and bad points. It focuses on the life of Strike ( in his film debut), a punk who deals drugs in the park near his home in Brooklyn for a ruthless kingpin ( in a standout performance). When a fast food employee is murdered on the street outside his restaurant and Strike’s clean-living brother () confesses to the crime, police detectives  and  are immediately convinced that he is taking the rap for his much more hopeless brother. From there the film spirals out of control as it pursues the murder mystery but also indulges in character explorations of the many ways a person can find to destroy themselves in this very unhappy world. The acting is mostly good, though Phifer is still too green for the lead and is the weakest link in the cast; the dialogue is superb, but too many times Lee goes in to tangents that overstate many of the film’s lessons and, while it’s as visually striking as his best films, it feels too long.


USA, 1995

Directed by

Screenplay by , Spike Lee, based on the book by Richard Price

Cinematography by

Produced by , Spike Lee,

Music by

Production Design by

Costume Design by

Film Editing by

Film Festivals:  Venice 1995

Cast Tags:  

National Society of Film Critics Award Nomination
Best Supporting Actor (Delroy Lindo)



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