Building contractor Joe (Lo Bianco) is up to his neck in the scratch-my-back ethics of corrupt property developers and politicians. Son Nick (Spano) has been tempted into petty crime. Idealistic councilman Wynn (Morton) is torn between professional ambition and loyalty to local blacks, who accuse him of having sold them down the line. Black teenagers Tito and Desmond are so fed up with being hassled by racist cops that they mug a college professor... These are only a few of the characters and stories that colour Sayles' masterly account of the everyday workings of a contemporary New Jersey city: a genuinely epic, politically astute, profoundly humanist and dramatically gripping study of the conflicts, compromises and power plays that define life in any community on the verge of economic breakdown. As ever, much enjoyment may be had from both the complex, interwoven threads of Sayles' script and the powerful, naturalistic performances. What really impresses, however, is the confidence of Sayles' fluid direction.