When Life Imitates Art

A hot new gang movie sparks widespread violence

Across the country over the past two weeks, young moviegoers have rioted, fought and shot one another in or near theaters showing a film called New Jack City. The new Warner Bros. release, studded with street clashes and gang culture, recounts the rise and fall of a black cracklord. To some alarmed observers, the upheavals suggested that life was imitating art at a time when more and more urban youths are armed and prone to just the sort of violence that such films so graphically portray.

The immediate causes of the outbursts varied from place to place. In the Westwood district...

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