Written Nov. 8, 2010…
Less Than Human
“We sitting here day after day making ourself a little bit less human.”
– Gary McCullough
After watching this six-part 2000 HBO miniseries, I have to say that it is one of the most powerful, moving films I have ever experienced. Compassionately directed by actor Charles S. Dutton and written by David Simon and Edward Burns (creators of The Wire), every performance here is deeply moving and powerfully acted. Based on a real-life family from Baltimore, and the friends and neighborhood they are from, this miniseries deals with the horrors of drug addiction in a more realistic way than perhaps any movie or TV series ever has. You feel like you are right there in the middle of this horror, as the series takes an intimate, documentary-like approach. You have to keep reminding yourself that these are all actors playing a part. This would be a powerful series even if it was completely fictional. The fact that every character actually exists in real life just makes it that much more riveting.
T.K. Carter’s heartbreaking portrayal of Gary McCullough is one of the most poignant acting performances ever captured on film. Gary was once an extremely intelligent and successful stock market wizard who abhorred drugs and worked hard for his money. The fact that he eventually falls into a life of heroin abuse, and loses everything, most of all his dignity, is particularly sad. In every scene, you see a broken man with a look in his eyes that says, “how did I get myself into this mess?” Out of all the people whose lives are documented in this series, he seems to be the one you are pulling for the most. Carter captures the true essence of a man who is clearly not cut out for this kind of life, knows he is worth much more than this, but seems unable to stop himself from falling deeper into the abyss that has also claimed everyone around him. It’s a truly shattering performance that will leave you in tears.
Khandi Alexander and Sean Nelson, who play his ex-wife and son, also give deeply moving performances, as does everyone in the cast. Glenn Plummer’s portrayal of “Blue” is also worth noting, as he struggles to get himself out of his own battles with addiction.
You keep praying for everyone to pull themselves out of this self-created hell, but only a few are able to do so. Some are so far gone, you are amazed they have made it this far in life. They are truly ravaged souls, physically and mentally.
After the film is over, Dutton interviews some of the real-life counterparts, and you can see the hopefulness they convey, but also a lot of the emotional scars and demons they still carry with them.
This is one series that should be seen by everyone. It shows the absolute devastation and unrelenting destruction that drugs (whether doing them or selling them) will cause. It does it in a way that is not melodramatic or glamorized but simply realistic. It’s bleak but manages to remain hopeful in the wake of all this human carnage.
You’ll find yourself choked up but I guarantee it will stay with you for a long time to come. In a word: brilliant.