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The Corner (HBO Miniseries)
The Corner
HBO Miniseries
Actors: T.K. Carter, Khandi Alexander, Sean Nelson, Clarke Peters, Glenn Plummer
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
NR     2003     6hr 0min

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Movie Details

Actors: T.K. Carter, Khandi Alexander, Sean Nelson, Clarke Peters, Glenn Plummer
Creator: Bill Pankow
Genres: Drama, Television, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
Sub-Genres: Drama, Miniseries, Mystery & Suspense, African American Cinema
Studio: HBO Video
Format: DVD - Color - Closed-captioned,Dubbed,Miniseries,Subtitled
DVD Release Date: 07/22/2003
Original Release Date: 04/16/2000
Theatrical Release Date: 04/16/2000
Release Year: 2003
Run Time: 6hr 0min
Screens: Color
Number of Discs: 2
SwapaDVD Credits: 2
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 3
Edition: Box set
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English, Spanish, Spanish
Subtitles: English, Spanish, French

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Movie Reviews

HBO Has it Together -- THE CORNER is a Masterpiece
Birdman | Minnetonka, MN USA | 10/09/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Before viewing this miniseries, I had only read the book (of the same name) by David Simon and Edward Burns published in 1997. Still, the world of decaying neighborhoods, the havoc of street drugs and hopelessness among the disadvantaged has deepened in the Bush era. It took an ingenious director like Charles Dutton to recount one family's troubled history gripping miniseries that doesn't miss a beat. And he's selected a cast of relative unknowns who assume their roles with dead-on realism

The film follows a year in the life of one impoverished family against the backdrop of their neighborhood during the 1990's a drug-ridden quarter-mile from Baltimore's Inner Harbor. Dutton, like Simon and Burns, dwells on the humanity of his cxharacters and the universal themes of their day-to-day struggles. You needn't have been an alcoholic or drug addict to enter the hearts of these people or understand how they swing between hope and hopelessness.

As political commentary, THE CORNER couldn't be more timely, especially in its grasp of urban education, inner city commmunties, underage pareenthood and America's Dickensian juvenile justice system. Viewing what these potentially gifted people endure, viewers may ask how many good people we discard because of our cultural myopia, institutional racism and apathy.

The core performance here is T.K. Dutton's "Gary" -- the father of his broken family. The ways in which he struggles to overcome present shame in light of past success is something most of us will recognize -- race aside -- if not today, then tomorrow.

There is no score to speak of except for Corey Harris's blues track which occurs on splash screens and during the credits for each of six episodes. Dutton frames each episode with interviews of different principal characters to evoke the feel of a documentary, and he more than succeeds.

Dutton understands the lives of these characters because he grew up in their neighnorhood and experienced first-hand the dissolution of life on these corners -- where red tops and spider bags are the basis of life and death. He knows that the pain of addiction is potent, but not always as devastating as the cruelties of the real world "clean."

Every facet of this production suggests HBO should rebroadcast THE CORNER on its tenth anniversary. You wil laugh, weep, wince and cheer; and when it's over, you will hate to leave these good people.

While there are segments that are bleak, Dutton didn't intend to shock. He wanted to remind us that these men and women are fully human, and that --like Gary-- we have the potential to stumble, too. We might be doomed to the Corner but for the grace of God.

Five glowing stars for the DVD set -- and the book on which it's based."
An honest to goodness Masterpiece!
Phil T. Miller | Midland, MI United States | 08/01/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Seldom do you find a film that makes you feel as close to the characters as this one does. If I could put into words the range of emotion you will feel when viewing this series, you would purchase this set without hesitation. Though it is true that this is not for everyone, those who can deal with the harshest realities of life will be blown away by the gritty "in your face" approach of this Mini-Series. You will find yourself hoping with all your heart that Gary or Fran will "straighten up" and get it together, only to realize that they are not pillars of strength and are sometimes doomed to fail, even before they start. The most disappointing thing about the series is that it ends. As you progress through the episodes you will gradually begin to dread the inevitable end, and it will leave you hungry for more."
Excellent! It's about time.
Tanisha Ross | chicago,IL | 06/18/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)

"Like others reviewing this film I have been waiting a long time for this to be released and to have it come out on dvd is a real treat.This is the best depiction of in the hood drug addiction I have ever seen.It's real and not commercialized like Hollywood urban films are.It's not about gangs and thugs shooting each other up. It's about going against the odds and making the best out of the life that was given to us.I see this as an important document that makes you think and feel what it is like to be bound by addiction in more ways than one.Masterfully directed, there's something here for everyone to relate to.You don't have to be Black,you don't have to live in the hood, being human is enough to understand everything that goes on in this film.Very entertaining."
Olukayode Balogun | Leeds, England | 02/27/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)

"There's a scene right at the end of episode three titled "Fran's Blues", where Charles S. Dutton is talking to Baltimore Police Officer Robert Brown (played by Brian O'Neill). Officer Brown says he's sad about how the neighbourhood has changed over the years due to drugs. "The rot started in the projects," Brown says, and then it "Just kept creeping uphill." Dutton asks Brown if he ever feels like he's wasting his time, given the number of people the city locks up every year only a fraction of who get "prison time". Brown doesn't seem to think so, replying that there are still good people in the neighbourhood, "Church people, working people", who want to see the drug scourge end. Duttom then asks Brown if he thinks the war on drugs will ever be won? There's a long pause. The officer looks everywhere but at the camera and, after what seems like an age, finally says: "No comment."

Fans of "The Wire" (of which this series is a very close relation) will also recall a scene where it's implied by one of the characters that the war on drugs isn't being fought with any conviction because if it was and was eventually won, well, then local politicians wouldn't have anything to campaign about, would they? And then let's not forget the very strong belief among social commentators and observers both black and white, that narcotic drugs were brought into the black community by the CIA to ensure black folk remained a permanent underclass. Why do I bring all this up? I bring it all this up because these are the issues that came up for me while watching this powerful series. More than anything else, I came away feeling amazed that we live in a society that has allowed such incredible suffering to go on, on such a massive scale, for so long.

The six-part series is very cleverly directed by Charles S. Dutton to look like it was part documentary and part drama with skilfully added in flashbacks. In just six one-hour episodes it explores a wide range of social issues such as urban deprivation, poverty, family breakdown and teenage pregnancy but the focus is really the psychology of drug addiction and the despair of people caught up in it, particularly the McCullough family: Dad Gary (played by T.K. Carter), Mom Fran (played by Khandi Alexander) and two sons DeAndre and DeRodd (played by Sean Nelson and Sylvester Lee Kirk respectively). The series poses a lot of interesting and crucial questions about the so-called war on drugs that so far, I haven't heard any real-life politicians seriously address. Ever.

The series is from the same brains behind similarly Baltimore-focused shows as "Homicide: Life on the Street" and of course "The Wire". I know a couple of Baltimore residents personally and while all fans of these shows, they do have mixed feelings about them. I can understand why. Other shows supposedly based in other cities like New York's "Law & Order", Los Angeles' "The Shield" or Las Vegas' "CSI: Crime Scene Investigation" are all very well produced, directed and acted, (not to mention popular world-wide), but they are also very obviously works of fiction. This crop of shows on the other hand are based on non-fiction books. "The Corner" is based on "The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner-City Neighborhood", a non-fiction book by David Simon and Edward Burns and "The Wire", though largely written by Simon and Burns, is based on the non-fiction book "The Wire: Truth Be Told" by Rafael Alvarez. Even "Homicide" was based on a non-fiction book. They are thus so very close to the truth of what life is like on the streets of Baltimore. Or so I'm told. I can understand how that could make some people uncomfortable. Almost like they and their city are being put under a microscope.

In any event, one question that never seems to get answered via any of these shows and always seems to get glossed over is why these people get into drugs in the first place. We're told that Fran lost her sister and turned to drugs to ease the pain but no more is said on the subject. Personally, I'd have liked to find out what it was about Fran or any of the other drug addicts in the series and/or what it was about their lives that made drugs so attractive an option as an escape?

Also, these drugs are not manufactured on the streets of Baltimore so how do they get there? And where do they come from? I feel until we get shows that begin to focus on some of the root causes of the world's drug epidemic today, all we'll ever get is very entertaining shows that mainly serve to make us voyeurs on other people's tragic sadness.

But the emphasis is definitely on 'very entertaining'. I watched the entire series over two days, three episodes a sitting and then watched them all over again. As sad as the stories are, they were fun to watch. It was so much fun to see many of the same actors from the current season of The Wire on this too, people like Lance Reddick, Maria Broom, Clarke Peters, Reg E. Cathey; all incredibly versatile and talented artistes. Finally, it was also great to see (at the end of the final episode) the real-life people behind the story and find out how they felt about being portrayed on film in this way. They didn't seem to mind and the real Fran Boyd expressed the hope that seeing how bad her life on drugs was, might encourage other drug addicts to get help.

I hope so too.

I know this is long-winded and may seem more like an essay than a review of a DVD but I just don't think it's enough to review something this significant with generic praise like "Great work by Charles S. Dutton!" (Even though it is) or "T.K. Carter's performance was stunning!" (Even though it was) or "Sean Nelson was great!" (Even though he was) or "Khandi Alexander shines!" (Even though she does). In my view, this winner of 3 Emmys is a body of work that is much greater than the sum of its parts, as fantastic as those parts are. This series makes me think and it makes me wonder. Not many TV series can do that.

But then, this isn't TV. It's HBO.