By Owen Gleiberman
Updated April 11, 2003 at 04:00 AM EDT

An intense and troubling documentary. Blobby and dim-witted, Stevie Fielding grew up abused and abandoned, emerging as a boozy, dysfunctional criminal. That’s where Steve James, the director of Hoop Dreams, picks him up. In the ’80s, James was Stevie’s Big Brother, and he has returned to make a film about him. Early on, we learn that Stevie has been arrested for molesting an 8-year-old girl, and the movie is framed as a moral drama: Can — and should — the system save a man whose actions are monstrous? Stevie is gripping in its intimacy, yet it leaves you with the disquieting sensation that Steve James’ compassion for Stevie wasn’t the reason he made the film so much as it was the excuse.

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