By Owen Gleiberman
May 14, 1998 at 04:00 AM EDT
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In Spike Lee?s passionately ambitious new movie, Jake Shuttlesworth (Denzel Washington), a convicted murderer, is let out of prison on an unofficial furlough. He has one week to convince his son, the greatest high school basketball player in the country, to attend college at the New York governor?s alma mater. Lest we have any doubt about what the stakes are, Jake?s son is named Jesus (he?s played by Milwaukee Bucks guard Ray Allen). Lee does a dazzling job of evoking the whirlwind of temptation that?s buffeting Jesus, and Washington, as the sad-sack Jake, gives a meticulous, implosive performance?though the lackadaisical desperation of his ?street? manner is never entirely convincing.

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