A smashing debut for director Jones, rich in feeling and plainly sympathetic to the plight of its characters. Some of itespecially the depiction of the protagonist's home lifefeels like the stuff of after school specials, but the harsh, dynamic visuals (including a haunting final shot) lend it vitality uncommon among films of this ilk. And the loose, improvisational style of the actors is sometimes worthy of Charles Burnett. That the film does not withhold judgment from its central character (a teenaged African-American boy "distracted" by basketball, rap music, and marijuana) indicates a moral toughnesssort of like a ghetto Dostoevskythat narrowly avoids being mawkish, maudlin, or preachy.
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