On a related note to the previous post, I think an interesting comparison can be made between The Wire and the recent film Winter's Bone. That movie is also about an economically depressed area (the rural Missouri Ozarks) and centers on characters whose lives are shadowed by the drug trade. One difference is that all the characters in the film are white.
Another difference is that the film is told entirely from the perspective of a character who herself is not directly involved in the drug trade but who has to negotiate that world in order to protect her family, her younger brother and sister.
But the most interesting difference to me is the way that law enforcement officers are portrayed in the film. They're basically peripheral, for one thing. And their roles are even more ambiguous than those of the cops in The Wire. There's a bail bondsman who's sympathetic but ultimately the enforcer of a vicious system. There's a craven sheriff who's either ineffectual or corrupt.
Mostly, the story is about the protagonist, a heroic and brave teenage girl. The film presents nuanced, interesting portraits of her uncle, an addict who's been involved in the meth trade; and, like The Wire, it also presents even some of the most villainous characters in a fairly complicated light.
My point, though, is that at no time are we encouraged to see this as a story about the forces of justice and law tackling the evils of those involved in the drug trade. The film is not interested in that. I wonder if such a movie has ever been made about black characters whose lives are lived in the shadow of the drug trade.
Maybe Boyz in the Hood?