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The bleak reality of drug addiction is captured with unflinching authenticity in The Corner, an excellent, reality-based HBO miniseries. Having lived on the streets of West Baltimore, Maryland, where this compelling drama takes place, actor-director Charles S. Dutton knows the territory, physically, socially, and emotionally, and his compassionate approach is vital to the series' success. Dutton cares for his characters deeply enough to give them a realistic shred of hope, even when hope is consistently dashed by the ravages of addiction. This is, at its root, a family tragedy, focusing on errant father Gary (T.K. Carter, in a heartbreaking performance) a once-successful investor trapped in a tailspin of heroin dependency. His estranged wife Fran (Khandi Alexander) was the first to get hooked, and she's struggling to get clean, while their 15-year-old son DeAndre (Sean Nelson, from the indie hit Fresh) deals drugs, temporarily avoiding their deadly allure while facing the challenge of premature fatherhood.
Through revealing flashbacks and numerous local characters, we see the explicit fallout of addiction, and while violence occasionally erupts, its constant threat is secondary to Dutton's dramatic vision, which remains steadfastly alert to the humanity and neglected potential of these lost and searching souls. The Corner is,essentially the civilian flipside of HBO's equally laudable series The Wire, which approaches a similar neighbourhood from a police-squad perspective. Performances are uniformly superb, details are uncannily perfect, and for all of its human horror, The Corner is riveting, not depressing. A closing interview with the characters' real-life counterparts bears witness to the fact that these lives, with inevitable exceptions, need not be lost forever. --Jeff Shannon