John Sayles’s seventh feature, his first in ‘Scope, is a highly ambitious and grimly powerful look at urban corruption that represents a marked improvement over most of his earlier efforts while still revealing Sayles’s relative lack of skill in directing actors, framing, and editing. Set in the fictional Hudson City, New Jersey, which suggests a combination of Hoboken (where Sayles lives) and nearby Jersey City, the film centers on the troubled son (Vincent Spano) of a successful contractor who gets involved in an attempted burglary, which sets off a chain of events that ultimately involves all the other characters in this densely populated film: politicians, policemen, hoods, teachers, street people, and many others. As social analysis, the film is at once highly persuasive and dependent on an overall orientation that’s about as up-to-date as leftist thinking of the 30s. (The raving street person who is employed as a choral figure could have come straight out of Clifford Odets.) With Tony Lo Bianco, Joe Morton, Angela Bassett, Gloria Foster, and Sayles himself (in a very effective turn as a villain with a letter-perfect New Jersey accent). (Water Tower)