Strike (Phifer) deals crack from the benches in front of the Brooklyn tenement where he grew up. Rodney (Lindo) has his protégé earmarked for big things, but he has to be blooded first: murder is Rodney's only insurance. Strike listens, but when his intended victim turns up dead, it's Strike's straight-arrow brother Victor (Washington) who confesses to the crime. Rodney isn't happy. That goes double for detective Klein (Keitel) who, unlike his partner Mazilli (Turturro), refuses to accept they've put away the real killer. Spike Lee's adaptation of Richard Price's novel cuts back on the cops' perspective but retains the essential overview of a society trapped in a cycle of despair. In an apparent reaction against the plethora of flashy 'hood' movies his success helped spawn, Lee has toned down the snap of his montage, muted his saturated mise en scène in favour of streetlight chiaroscuro, and co-opted jerky, handheld zooms from cinéma vérité. Scored largely to plaintive soul tracks (Seal, Marc Dorsey), the result is a more sober, mournful and meditative expressionism than you'd expect. That's not to say the film isn't suspenseful, but the director's distaste for the inner city's gun culture is clear to see. Superbly acted.
Cast and crew
Richard Price, Spike Lee
Harvey Keitel Mekhi Phifer Delroy Lindo John Turturro Isaiah Washington Keith David Pee Wee Love