Laurence Fishburne is one of my favorite actors, and he is tremendous in this. The problem I had with this movie is the motivations and lessons it portrays. The messages seem to be self-defeating for a black man living in the circumstances he did. There seems to be a cycle, and a simple-mindedness, to his thoughts and behaviors, that will always lead him back to where he is. He tries to find a job with a store, which is a good distance from where he lives. He is told that he lives out of the store's area, and he has no phone. He fumes and complains about the unfairness of it all, but instead of looking for a job closer to where he lives, he wants to continue to press the issue with this particular store, as if this will prove some point. There doesn't seem to be anything to gain here. He continually makes things harder on himself, and then complains that he can't get a break.
Of course, the message is to become a more self-reliant man, and there is certainly nothing wrong with that, but the self-reliance aspect is almost taken to the point of absurdity, and to the point where he is likely to put himself right back in prison. This may be a reality for some people, but it is a reality that has no real, positive outcome. There are better ways to lift himself out of the circumstances he finds himself in, but pursuing solutions that are guaranteed to fail, and the bitterness that follows, pretty well ensures continued poverty.
There just wasn't much to uplift you in this movie. Not that there had to be, but I would have much rather seen a more realistic take on a man, who has seen more than his share of hard luck and hard times, struggling to make a better life for himself with whatever the world can offer, instead of dragging himself down when he feels someone has slighted him.
The friendship of the young boy was troubling, also. The message Socrates conveys to the kid is that force is what gains respect from your peers. This was a stupid, infantile approach for this at-risk kid. The fact that the kid picks up a gun should not have been surprising to anyone. This would naturally follow exactly the lesson he was trying to teach. The fact is, there were far too many young boys and men prowling those streets who had been taught the same lessons, and now were simply applying what they had learned out on those streets.
A very interesting character study of this man, and a fine performance by Laurence Fishburne, but the movie glorified self-destructive thought-processes, and cyclical poverty.