It’s Angie you feel most sorry for. This is one of the few times I’ve ever seen an actor almost upstage a master director just by turning the temperature down on her performance. Mr. Lee was making a social tragedy. Ms. Sciorra’s starring in a more private one. Her passion — which in one devastating sequence is nearly beaten out of her — departs from all the bigger, louder acting around her.
The movie packs in a hallucinatory visit to “the Trump Towers of crack dens,” clunky depositions on colorism, the most alarming final shot in film history, and a whole lotta scenery-gnawing supporting performances, both bad—Anthony Quinn, as the father of Sideshow Bob–haired John Turturro—and good—Samuel L. Jackson’s sniveling addict Gator.
It’s an idea movie more than a love story, so it can be forgiven for the leads’ lack of chemistry, and for Lee’s long detours with Flipper’s drug-addicted brother (a just-out-of-rehab Samuel L. Jackson), whose personal fever is only different than Flipper’s in the particulars, Lee implies. Less forgivable is Lee’s typical clumsiness depicting Italian-Americans (see also: Son of Sam) and the overwrought score by Terence Blanchard that drowns every scene in sentiment.