Reggie Porter is a man whom Jim first meets on the basketball court, but will eventually play the part of Jim's savior rather than the man who might have been expected to play that part, Father McNulty.
The characters who devolve into drug abuse are the three boys who form the nucleus of St. Vitus High School's basketball team and their too-short-to-play best friend: Jim, Mickey, Neutron and Pedro. Even while enjoying massive success on the court, they engage in low-rent drug highs involving inhalants. This addition fuels their kinetic energy rush to do things like cut school, jump off rocks into a river filled with toilet waste, and steal from and beat up rival teams. It may even play a part in their success on the court by giving them an inflated sense of confidence. It is only after a sexual encounter with two sisters and the first exposure of hard drugs that things being to spiral completely out of control.
Although they could be described as mostly harmless little punks before the turn to hardcore drugs, afterwards they all clearly display severe antisocial behavior as their addictions lay hold to all forms of functioning. Stealing in secret from lockers transforms into wholesale mugging of defenseless old women. Basketball ceases to retain any meaningful place in their lives and in the process Jim at least seems ready to sacrifice what might have become a NBA career. Every choice presented in their lives is consumed with the need to fulfill the required high: sexual preference, the choice between food and drugs, and the choice between drugs and family.
The presentation of drug use in the film is ambivalent at best. Although clearly intended as an anti-drug message, the first half hour shows drug abuse without any consequences. The boys begin with inhalants and then go off on a fun round of throwing up on profane jerks and getting up the nerve to jump from a tall height into the water. There seems to be no downside to using drugs when it comes to playing roundball, either. Only after Winkie and Blinkie have acted as the serpent in this garden by introducing the boys to cocaine do the consequences of drug use finally get revealed. This message is clearly undermined by the attractiveness of the two girls; what high school boys would turn down drugs if they had a shot at these blonde goddesses
Nevertheless, eventually the effects of using drugs are presented with the intention of getting more viewers to just say no. The boys are kicked off the basketball team after taking downers just before a game. Jim in particular becomes the latest in a long line of movie characters to have his descent into total drug addiction portrayed in glorious shivering, drooling, frenetic wide-eyed Technicolor. The low point comes after Jim lies bloody and beaten and still in his urine-soaked pants.
The film seems to be geared specifically, perhaps even exclusively, to adolescents and twenty-somethings, or at least those who have seen few similar movies. The casting of Leonard DiCaprio and Marky Mark Wahlberg attests to the filmmaker's interest in appealing to younger fans, but it is the fact that the movie essentially adds nothing to the drug-addict genre that has been seen before that makes it less likely to appeal to older viewers. Anyone who has watched The Man with the Golden Arm has already seen this movie minus its four-letter words and nudity and sexuality. In addition, since the film seems to exist only as an anti-drug public