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Though time and HBO's "Oz" have eclipsed its ground-breaking impact, "Short Eyes" remains a milestone of American independent film, and a vital entry in the prison-film genre. Adapted by Miguel Pi?ħero from his acclaimed play, this gritty drama was filmed in Manhattan's infamous Men's House of Detention (better known as "the Tombs"), giving a rough, authentic edge to Pi?ħero's unflinching portrait of men trapped in legal-system limbo. Inmate tensions intensify when an alleged pedophile ("Short Eyes" in prison slang, played by Bruce Davison) is dropped into detention, and instantly ostracized by white, Latino, and black inmates alike. Under the documentary-like direction of Robert M. Young, this claustrophobic, emotionally raw study of hopelessness was a real eye-opener for its time (1977), revealing depths of anguish, danger, and cruelty that had never before been dramatized on film. Paving the way for harsher prison dramas that followed, "Short Eyes" features Pi?ħero in a supporting role, and look closely for "Traffic"'s Luis Guzm?°n in his screen debut. "--Jeff Shannon"
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