The plot of ABC's movie tonight is right out of Dickens: An "Oliver Twist"-like group of boys, living off the street and desperate for camaraderie, carries out criminal activities under the guidance of an older man. They are "The Children of Times Square."
Airing at 9 p.m. on Channels 7, 3, 10 and 42, the film offers an unnerving and evidently realistic premise, depicting what happens to many of the thousands of youngsters who, like the principal character of Eric, a 14-year-old boy from suburban Pennsylvania, run away from home each year to New York or some other big city. Having nowhere to live and no means of support, they fall prey to pushers, pimps and pedophiles.
Writer-director Curtis Hanson cuts a path through this adolescent underworld with a dark-hued story about the fates of two of its victims. Eric (Brandon Douglas) and Luis (Danny Nucci), who is looking to make some money for his impoverished family, travel different paths to arrive at the same "club," as another boy jokingly calls it, peddling cocaine for a share of the profits.
"We're in the business of giving the suckers what they want," says the Fagin of this drug ring (Howard E. Rollins Jr.). He applies the same principle with the boys, shrewdly exploiting their need for a feeling of family to help ensure their loyalty to his illegal activities.