Picks and Pans Review: Stranger Inside

updated 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 06/25/2001 AT 01:00 AM EDT

HBO (Sat., June 23, 9 p.m. ET)

Oz won't return with fresh episodes till 2002, but this film from director Cheryl Dunye (The Watermelon Woman) shows that HBO is still in the business of tough, gritty, uncompromising prison drama.

Treasure (Yolonda Ross) is a 21-year-old inmate newly transferred from a youth correctional facility to a state prison, where she hopes to meet the woman she believes to be her long-lost mother. That would be Brownie (Davenia McFadden), a hardened convict who has amassed considerable power inside the walls while serving a life sentence for murder. To get close to Brownie, Treasure joins the small "family" of prisoners doing her bidding. If Brownie seems to be using and abusing Treasure, the lifer has a ready explanation: "You always hurt the one you love." A shocking act of violence leads to a twist that strains credulity, but Stranger Inside will hold you.

Bottom Line: Do the time

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