Based on Richard Price
's grim best-seller, and directed by Spike Lee
from a screenplay co-written with Price, Clockers
takes the structure of a police procedural to build a chilling portrait of despair, hope, and the unanswered problem of black-on-black crime in an urban housing project. The film's haunting themes are vividly visualized during the opening credits, which run over police photos of dead young black men, shot and sprawled on sidewalks, in streets, and hanging over fences. Strike (Mekhi Phifer
) is a 19-year-old African-American "clocker" -- the lowest link on the drug dealing chain -- who hangs around park benches and street corners selling small amounts of druges at all hours of the day. Strike drinks chocolate milk to soothe an ulcer and plays with model trains in his apartment, dreaming of a way out of his dead-end life. Drug kingpin Rodney (Delroy Lindo
) asks Strike to kill another clocker, Darryl, for skimming money, saying that this will be Strike's ticket to a higher post in Rodney's organization. Darryl is indeed shot, and suspicion immediately falls on Strike, but a weary cop named Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel
) thinks there's more to the case.