Everyone seems to be putting this film down, but I honestly cannot get enough of it. Not only does this film have a strong message behind it, but it also strips away every defense that people can possibly have for inner-city life (some city areas, not all), and shows the unbearably real lives of teenagers today. The characters are real. Usher Raymond (Lester) gives a believable performance of a young adult, simply doing whatever it takes for Ziggy (Robert Ri'chard), a perfectly portrayed teen, escaping from his father and himself through his talents. Forest Whitaker (Officer Dante Jackson) seems to have captured the confusing officer, who was only out for himself at first. Sara Gilbert (Lynn) is without a doubt perfect in her role as an outcast teen who only wants to be wanted, and silently begs for understanding. Stephanie and Rivers (Rosio Dawson and Clifton Collins, Jr.) are well played and well rounded characters. Stephanie, counting the days until graduation and Rivers, who's motto is "the rules are meant to be broken". The only character flaw in my opinion was Rodney (Fredro Starr), a painful stereotype. As the movie goes on and the plot becomes more intense, we are slowly exposed to the raw lives of the teens. Ziggy (Ri'chard) is severely abused by his father and has taken refuge in the attic of the school. Lynn (Gilbert) only wanted a kiss from the jerk who got her pregnant. He never kissed her or talked to her after. Lester (Raymond) witnessed police officers shoot his innocent father to death. And Officer Jackson (Whitaker) lost his wife and son. The messages in this movie are clear. Stand up for what you believe in. Give everyone a fighting chance despite their age or race. The darkest people have the darkest secrets. These are messages our country desperately needs to hear, especially now.