A major American city has rarely appeared as seedy and decrepit as in "Corrupted Minds." Known pre-release as "Panic in Detroit," the movie follows the story of four groups who travel over the Ambassador Bridge from Canada into Detroit. The intertwined stories explore themes of pride, violence, power, passion, drug abuse, lust, misplaced trust, racial and sexual politics, and desperation to survive. In this dark world honesty and true friendship are rare, while deception and raw self-interest are commonplace, and everyone is at risk of betrayal or victimization.
Realistic, emotionally compelling performances by just about every actor and actress involved add enormously to the power of this absorbing drama. Many of the strongest scenes are between Tris (actress Aida Muñoz), a strikingly exotic Hispanic beauty who works as a prostitute but dreams of a better life, and Nick (actor Elton Litzner), her former boyfriend and pimp who, despite his other women, cannot tolerate Tris escaping his domination. Meanwhile, Jack (actor Mark Brock), a sleazy pimp who likes to put on an air of respectability, seeks to woo Tris, while at the same time cheating and exploiting her.
Actor Dale Reynolds puts in a sensitive performance as Sonny Montgomery, a well-known former college sports hero tricked into assisting a criminal, politically motivated plot. On the run from police and the conspirators, including The Reverend (actor Scott Wyckoff) and his henchman Ahmad (actor Walter Harris), his fight to survive seems doomed, while Manuel (actor Derek Denham) the friend that he trusts, ponders his orders to kill Sonny to keep him from talking.
Other story lines center on a film crew from Canada making a documentary, encouraging the locals to say bad things about Detroit, and two white suburban young ladies (actresses Candace Posluszny as Staci and Deirdre Tracey as Margaret) who are unsure whom to trust when their car breaks down in a run-down area of Detroit near the bridge.
Because of nudity, sex scenes and adult themes, the film is inappropriate for children. Despite the degrading nature of some of the sexual relationships, unlike just about every other movie the nudity and sex themselves are never sensationalized or idealized, but instead are portrayed truly and honestly.
Although the film was shot on a limited budget, great attention is paid to the cinematography, which is beautiful, and the sound, which is always right. The musical soundtrack is interesting and appropriate, and normally unobtrusive. There are also some good special effects, though not extensive. The plot is about relationships and human motivations, not explosions. Yet, it is also about the City, a character whose presence is always felt.
By the end of the film there are many losers, but a few winners as well. The biggest winner is the audience.
Producer, director, and screenwriter Brian Lawrence (not related to reviewer) has labored for years to bring forth a well-crafted product that entertains as it asks disturbing questions about contemporary American life.
James S. Lawrence, firstname.lastname@example.org
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