In San Francisco, a Caucasian family pressed by the real estate speculation, moves to Hunter's Point, an Afro-American neighborhood ruled by the V-Dub gang and the son Nick Wade faces problem with the violent gangsters. However, the drug dealer K-Luv decides to bootleg CDs and get close to Nick, protecting him. Meanwhile, the Chinese collector Lincoln Ma is blackmailed by the owner of a restaurant and he executes him, falling in disgrace with his mobster boss. The lives of Nick, K-Luv and Lincoln are entwined when the drug lord Sleepy protects a rapper against the Chinese piracy of his CD. Written by
Claudio Carvalho, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
solid crime-show pilot that shows Lee can do something dramatic outside of NYC (pre Miracle at St. Anna)
Sucker Free City refers to San Francisco, where three interlocking stories take place with black, white and Chinese guys on the street. Some are gang-bangers (black), or hard-bitten mafia (Chinese), and the other (white) are more marginalized with some dabbling in some 'thug' business. What's very strong here in a pilot episode is also something of an unfortunate weakness considering it's Spike Lee directing, and directing well: it ends on a note of 'what comes next', of a few too many loose ends to feel totally at ease as a stand alone work, which it sadly became once Showtime decided not to pick it up. While one wonders if they could pick up the reins properly from Lee, or if he could produce the series, or (more logically) if it could properly compete with HBO's The Wire, taking it as a stand-alone made-for-TV movie, it's quality s*** we're talking about, so to speak.
Lee directs with a professionalism that is uncanny, but like any good film artist trying to work into something mainstream he only puts his marks here once in a while, even less than in something big like Inside Man (one of the trademarks though, Da-BOMB malt liquor from Bamboozled, is a fun and nice touch). He does what he needs to do: tell all these stories, set up a lot of things to play out within the two-hours and for the future (as there is uncertainty even in what feels finished), and cast everything to a T. In this case we get Anthony Mackie, fresh off of what turned out to be a turkey for Lee, She Hate Me, as a gang-banger K-Luv in abandoned wasteland Hunter's Point trying to go somewhat legit with his endeavors; Ben Crowley as the credit-card hustler and sometimes coke-dealer Ben Wade, who's parents have decided to move right into Hunter's point across the street from K-Luv's people; (way underrated) Ken Leung as a collector for the Chinese mob getting in over his head with a new decked-out car and debts unpaid.
Lee creates an atmosphere that's tense, funny, and occasionally really shocking (not to spoil, but it does involve children), and he has a surprisingly strong script to work off of from first-timer Alex Tse. Everything easily gets linked together, but the tensions rise with some conventionality- just enough to keep things believable for TV. The set-up is even so good I'm reminded of Oz, where the psychology and sociology of street-life got examined with mature entertainment. One can only think how the characters lives could go on from here, but the fact that Lee keeps us guessing is a mark of his talents; ironically, this is one of the director's best works in recent years, and should be seen by more than just those looking him up this site. 8.5/10
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