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Spike Lee's adaptation of a solid, if overpraised, crime novel by Richard Price (THE WANDERERS, SEA OF LOVE) is slickly made and well acted. But with most of the novel's subplots stripped away, it emerges as just another polemic about the scourge of
drugs in the African-American community. Strike (Mekhi Phifer) is an ambitious low-level drug dealer. His older brother (Isaiah Washington) is a minimum-wage slave with a wife and two kids. Which one killed neighborhood lowlife Darryl? This none-too-baffling mystery sets in motion a series of
confrontations among cops, crime lords, drug dealers and family members, none of which amounts to much more than profane noise. Edgy camera work (by the capable Malik Hassan Sayeed, who's no Ernest Dickerson) is meant to lend a faux-documentary authenticity, but Lee's film never recaptures the
impact of the opening credit sequence, a grimly deglamorized tableaux of real-life crime scenes.