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by Eleanor Ringel

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Time is running out for Rocco Klein, a fiftysomething homicide detective (Harvey Keitel), and Strike, a teenage drug dealer (Mekhi Phifer), who are the protagonists of Spike Lee's impassioned but preachily predictable film. Based on Richard Price's novel of the same name, (a clocker is a dealer), the cop and the kid cross paths when Strike's older brother, Victor (Isaiah Washington), confesses to a murder. Since Victor is a hard-working family man, Klein suspects he's taking the fall for his brother. There's a lot to like in "Clockers": the uneering sense of the streets (one of the cops dismisses a dead black man as "just another stain on the pavement"); the edgy, empathetic bond that forms between Keitel and Phifer; a spectacular turn by Delroy Lindo as Strike's drug-lord boss, a modern-day Fagin who lectures his "boys" to be nice to their mamas before sending them out to hawk his poison. But something hasn't connected here between the director and the material. We've met these Boyz in the Hood before; we know they are a Menace to Society - and themselves. Lee's movie feels like a two-hour public service announcemnt on the evils of drugs, bad cops and black-on-black violence. While there's much to admire in "Clockers," it just isn't a knock-out like "Do The Right Thing" or "Malcolm X."

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