Picks and Pans Review: Sucker Free City

updated 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 02/14/2005 AT 01:00 AM EST

Showtime (Sat., Feb. 12, 8 p.m. ET)

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You should know going in that director Spike Lee made this gritty drama as a movie-length pilot for a Showtime series that went undeveloped. If you're not too let down by the inconclusive ending, you'll appreciate the potential of the material.

Sucker Free City follows three young men on the criminal path in San Francisco. K-Luv (Anthony Mackie), a ranking member of the black V-Dub gang, prefers to take profits without drawing blood but is willing to kill to solve a pressing problem. Lincoln (Ken Leung) pockets some of the protection money he collects for a Chinatown crime boss and secretly fools around with the big man's hot, haughty daughter. Nick (Ben Crowley), a white office worker who dabbles in drug sales and credit-card fraud, lends his computer skill to K-Luv's bootleg-CD venture.

Lee and writer Alex Tse tell the story with an eye for irony—particularly in their caricature of Nick's fuzzy-thinking liberal dad (John Savage)—but when violence erupts, there's no mistaking the film's dead-seriousness. Too bad we're left wondering whether K-Luv and Lincoln will collide or coexist.

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