Sidney Lumet returns to his special stomping groundthe workings of the New York Police Department and justice system, and how they’re affected by racial antagonisms and ethnic loyaltiesin a richly detailed, caustic thriller, adapted by Lumet himself from a novel by Hispanic judge Edwin Torres. The plot centers on the investigation of the killing of a Hispanic hood by a respected police lieutenant (Nick Nolte) that is carried out by an idealistic assistant district attorney (Timothy Hutton), himself the son of a highly respected policeman; a major witness to the killing (Armand Assante) is involved with the investigator’s former girlfriend (Jenny Lumet), a mulatto who left him years earlier because of his own unconscious racism. The film runs for 134 minutes, but Lumet keeps things moving with his sharp eye (and ear) for New York detail and his escalating sense of liberal outrage. Hutton seems miscast in the lead part, and the villains (Nolte and Patrick O’Neal) are rather two-dimensional, but the other characters are persuasively delineated; Assante, Lee Richardson, Luis Guzman, Charles Dutton, and Paul Calderon are especially effective. (JR)

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