DVDs in Review #59: The Corner

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"Every City in America has a "corner". To parents, it's a place their children must avoid. To cops, it's the front line of the "war on drugs". But to the addicts who live and work there, it's the most vital piece of real estate in their desperate lives."
--The Corner

The Corner is an Emmy award winning six part mini-series which was first broadcast on HBO in the year 2000, it's based on David Simon and Ed Burns's 1997 book 'The Corner: A Year in the Life of an Inner City Neighbourhood' and was adapted by David Simon and David Mills for the small screen. Now finally the complete DVD set is available for general consumption in the UK, having been released on the 6th April, 2009. Just a meagre nine or so years after it first aired.

The Corner contains an unrelenting and direct look at a part of America which is often ignored or sometimes even villanised by popular conception and the media. At its heart it follows and chronicles the lives of a small family living in West Baltimore, near to the corners where drugs a sold openly to those who want them. The three core characters are Garry McCollough (T.K. Carter), his ex-wife Francine "Fran" Boyd (Khandi Alexander) and their son D'Andre McCollough (Sean Nelson). Each of them lives a life where drugs are not only a fact but an essential ingredient of everyday life. Garry and Fran are both addicts, having fallen from a reasonable life almost directly due to the influence of drugs, D'Andre on the other hand doesn't use drugs but he does deal them on the corners.

Often people like this are portrayed as being low-life, barely human scum. Existing only to be shaken down by a hard boiled cop needing information, to get shot and murdered or to murder someone themselves. They are dehumanised and used as little more than plot devices to drive the narrative and satisfy the stereotypical views of drug users. But The Corner refuses to accept this as the only version of events, it turns around and holds up the lives of these people to the harsh light and says to the viewer :

"Here they are, here are the people who are struggling with the drug problem in America every day. Don't hate them, don't pity them. Many of them seek to overcome their situation and better themselves.

See them, understand them, accept them. These are the people in the front line of 'the war on drugs' "

The Corner brings a great deal of humanity to the characters portrayed, not just the McColloughs but also the people who surround and intertwine with their lives. The dealers, users and working class individuals who all struggle with daily life in the inner city. The Corner introduces us to the lads who run with D'Andre, fellow users and dealers and much more. Providing not just a picture of one family but a portrait of the entire neighbourhood they exist in. Of particular note is the character of Fat Carl, portrayed by the always fantastic Clarke Peters as a run down dealer/user reaching the end of his days.

There is a lot in The Corner which have influenced sections of Simon's later masterpiece 'The Wire'; D'Andre is clearly the inspiration for D'Angelo (and not just in the name) and much of the message of the streets in The Wire is echoed in The Corner. Also several actors who would later appear in The Wire are present in The Corner, most notable is the aforementioned Clarke Peters (Who would later play Lester Freamon in The Wire), but also present are Clayton LeBouef (Orlando), Lance Reddick (Cedric Daniels), Delaney Williams (Jay Landsman) and Corey Parker Robinson (Leander Sydnor). Clarke's performance in particular is breathtaking but each one of these shows their acting chops off magnificently.

I knew going into watching The Corner that it was going to be a heartfelt and honest account of inner city life, previous experience with David Simon's work has taught me that he understands his characters, the situations they are in and cares about them as well - so I knew this was going to be an enjoyable watch even before I started. But it turned out to be much more than that, franklt this is a work which is essential viewing for anyone who enjoyed 'The Wire' and it's a real eye opener for anyone else. You can't claim to have a valid opinion on the 'war on drugs' until you've seen this masterpiece of contemporary media.


Audio: 2.0 Dolby Surround
Aspect Ratio: 1:33:1 Full Frame
Run Time: 335 Mins. Approx.
Languages: English
Hearing Impaired: English
Subtitles: English, Croatian, Dutch, French, Greek, Norwegian, Portugese, Slovenia, Swedish
Region: 2
Rating: 18


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