You want to force politicians and lawmakers to watch this film. You want high school kids considering drugs to watch this film. And you want to watch this film yourself, over and over, for the sheer drama of the story and for the tremendous performances by each and every person in it.
Equally poignant were the appearances by the people who weren't performers: at the end of the series, there's a brief meeting with the real individuals who were portrayed in the six episodes, along with a "five years later" update on what actually happened to other characters whose real-life counterparts didn't live long enough (or live free long enough) to participate in the on-camera reunion.
Dutton's direction is brilliant, presenting the cold facts of a deadly situation with great compassion as well as narrative force. Although not explicitly political and never preachy, the film makes the unpopular point that medical treatment backed up with intensive rehab works and pouring money into fruitless attempts at law enforcement doesn't.
This series is a great American tragedy and crime story combined, a fit companion to "The Godfather" and "Grapes of Wrath," combining the gritty crime story of the first with the deadly grind of verité poverty from the latter to produce an engrossing synecdoche of our culture at the end of the century.
This isn't an "inner city" movie -- this is about all of us. What Dutton shows us in the Baltimore ghetto happens in rural towns in the heartland, too. One small mistake leads to another until, all too soon and too often inevitably, the chances of a happy ending become very, very slim. A universal plot, as timeless and as touching as Shakespeare's finest.
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