TRACKS, a film based on a true story, tells the story of Peter Madigan (Chris Gunn), who along with some of his friends, pulls a switch on a railroad track as a prank. The prank causes a derailment which results in the death of the engineer, and Peter ends up in prison for manslaughter. He has to learn to fend for himself, accept what he has done, and come to terms with his painful past. In general everything is against Peter, except a prison guard, Officer Brian Park (Ice T). Park is trying to improve himself, taking classes for law enforcement and psychology, and reaches out to Peter and becomes the catalyst for change.
Overall the story is interesting at its core, but the film does have some drawbacks. Most of the characters are rather one dimensional and predictable, especially in the jail: tough gangster, psychopathic killer, junkie, odd flamboyant man, corrupt guards, etc. and the prison scenes rely on stereotypes of incarceration. Also Peter's transformation come a bit too easily though viewers do grow to like him and sympathize with him so we are glad the transformation does occur.
One thing the film does try to accomplish and does rather well is showing the connection between crime and abuse. While this may be somewhat hackneyed, TRACKS does it effectively. We discover the pain of Peter's past through flashback and while he does not speak about his horrid upbringing, he doesn't try to escape it or use it as an excuse. Having the abuse occur in a somewhat affluent New Jersey suburb likewise keeps the material somewhat fresh and compelling.