A city pulses with racial problems, political corruption, and small-time crime in this ambitious microcosm of urban life, written and directed by John Sayles. Nick Rinaldi (Vincent Spano), a lost soul usually high on drink and drugs, has spent his life in one New Jersey city, getting free rides from his connected father (Tony LoBianco) and hearing the locals talk of his brother’s death in Vietnam. Searching for more control, Nick quits the cushy contractor’s job provided by his Dad, feeling that major events are about to happen to him. That feeling proves accurate — by film’s end his life will change, as will the lives of many others. Nick is only the center of the movie’s sprawling collection of people and plotlines; Sayles takes full advantage of this expansive landscape, as he often begins shooting one conversation, only to pull back and eavesdrop on another, in one smooth, intriguing shot. By listening in, we slowly learn about the citizens and their dilemmas, as the city’s woes bubble to a narrative climax. Many of Sayles’ regular players are on-screen (the movie features 52 roles), including Joe Morton as a frustrated councilman and David Strathairn as a disturbed street person.