It stars Dermot Mulroney, Sean Astin, Balthazar Getty, Lara Flynn Boyle, Ricki Lake, James LeGros, Laura San Giacomo, David Arquette, Christian Slater, and Will Smith (in his film debut). The film was primarily shot on location in Los Angeles and Venice, California and included several songs by Melissa Etheridge.
Fleeing a variety of hardships, a group of young people form a protective family on their own, with King as their leader. King is a man in his early twenties who has been living on the street for seven years. In and out of jail, he spends most of his nights with Little J and Greg. Having spent three months in jail for assault, he feels the group fell apart in his absence. His friend, Brenda, a lot of the time bullied by Little J because of her weight, introduces him to Heather, a 17-year-old girl from Chicago. He soon takes her under his protection and includes her in his revenge on Tommy Ray, the man responsible for the death of his former girlfriend, Devon.
One night, Greg and Little J get into a fight while stealing stereos out of cars. Greg, mad that the group always takes Little J's side, seeks refuge with his drug dealer Ted and his girlfriend Vikki. He sends him away, however, because he doesn't have any money. Greg, not knowing what to do, goes home, but his father has him arrested for grand theft. Meanwhile, King and Heather have trouble earning money, but he insists they won't get into prostitution, unlike Little J's friends, Rob and Kimmy. Little J is lured into prostitution by Rob, but while servicing his client, Charles, he is reminded of the sexual abuse he suffered as a child at the hands of his uncle. In jail, Greg admits to being addicted to drugs, and a social worker gets him into a rehabilitation center, which will grant him parole.
Meanwhile, Tommy Ray, after threatening and beating up legless Manny, finds out where King is staying. He beats him up and almost stabs him, when Little J shoots Tommy Ray in the back. The group decides to run away, leaving Tommy Ray to die. King and Heather get away, but their friend, Crasher, is soon arrested. King advises Heather to return to Chicago, but she refuses to go without him. After a day begging for money, they decide to go to a hotel and spend the night making love. She later admits to him she ran away from home because her brother raped her. Little J, meanwhile, takes refuge at Kimmy's for a while, but he is kicked out by Rob and decides to contact Charles again. Greg runs away from the rehabilitation center in the meantime, but he is unable to find the group. He goes to Ted, who is worried about him because he hasn't slept for four days and tries to help him by shooting him up with heroin.
When Crasher is out of jail, he tries to convince King and Heather to go with him to Dallas, announcing that the police are looking for them. King doesn't want to leave without Greg and Little J and starts to look for them. He is shocked to find Greg lying in his own puke, high on drugs at Ted's place. He promises to go with him, but he is arrested by the police before he can. They next find Little J under a bridge, being kicked out of Charles' house and regretting having shot a person. King, Heather and Little J decide to leave without anyone else. Meanwhile, Greg, out of jail after having talked to the police about King's whereabouts, returns to Ted and overdoses on heroin. On their bus, going to a new destination to start a new life, King decides to get out to look for Greg, but he is arrested by the police. Little J tries to save them and attempts to shoot the police, which forces them to shoot Little J. King, however, jumps in front of him and is shot and killed. Heather witnesses this and is left in tears. She decides not to leave Los Angeles, but to wait until Little J is released from jail. Together, accompanied by Brenda, they return to the streets, using the practice that King taught them.Dermot Mulroney as King, the leader of a group of street people. Although most of his friends are addicted to drugs, King swears on staying clean.
Sean Astin as Greg, a 17-year-old runaway who is addicted to several drugs, primarily speed and heroin.
Balthazar Getty as Little J, an aggressive young man who doesn't care about rules.
Lara Flynn Boyle as Heather, a 17-year-old who just ran away from home. She becomes the romantic interest of King.
Peter Dobson as Tommy Ray, the violent enemy of King.
Ricki Lake as Brenda, an overweight girl who wants to be a movie star.
James LeGros as Crasher, who wants to move to Dallas.
Will Smith as Manny, the legless cripple who is friends with King's group.
Laura San Giacomo as the Interviewer, questioning King in jail about his life.
Adam Baldwin as Officer Black, a policeman looking for King.
Kyle MacLachlan as Ted, Greg's drug dealer, who thinks of him as his little brother.
Nancy McKeon as Vikki, Ted's girlfriend.
Alyssa Milano as Kimmy, a teenage prostitute.
David Arquette as Rob, Kimmy's boyfriend, who also works as a teenage prostitute.
Rachel Ticotin as Officer Landers, a policewoman looking for King.
Stephen Tobolowsky as Charles, a rich man who hires Little J as a prostitute.
Christian Slater as a social worker who tries to help Greg to stay clean.
The film's director, Marc Rocco was attracted to the production when he read the script from Michael Hitchcock. Hitchcock was inspired to write the script due to his experience on working at a shelter for teenage runaways in Hollywood.
Despite the low budget, the film features an ensemble cast. Most cast members worked, against the advice of their agents, for a small salary. They prepared for their role by spending days with actual teenage runaways in the Hollywood district. Rocco explained their enthusiasm to work on the project in a 1992 interview: "So few scripts let these actors actually act, so few studios give these actors anything but light comedies, there are so few chances to let these actors create dimensional people." Shooting of the film concluded in August 1991. The shooting has involved locations all over Hollywood, and meant the closing of the boulevard on some nights. People who passed by were paid $40 to appear as extras in the film.
Supporting cast member Alyssa Milano initially auditioned for the role of Heather, but fear of casting a former child actress initiated the producers to find her a smaller role instead. The role of Heather eventually went to Lara Flynn Boyle. On why she accepted the role, she commented in a 1991 interview that the script smacked her with reality: "One day when I was thinking about doing the movie, I passed Hollywood and Highland Avenue, and looked over and saw 30 kids hanging out. I thought of the movie and that sight made me eager to do it."
The film received generally positive reviews, but failed to deliver at the box office, despite earning $190,961 at 93 theaters during its opening weekend. Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote in his 1992 review: "The movie is effective, well-acted and convincing. [..] Mulroney carries the movie. [..] Many of the other characters are sharply drawn, including Greg, played by Astin. [..] Getty is very effective in a scene where he tries to be a male prostitute but hates himself for it. And Boyle is good in the somewhat stereotyped role of the pretty newcomer to the group. [..] It is not a poetic or pseudo-romantic view of runaway life (which seems like a hell interrupted by occasional laughs), but on the other hand it isn't hysterical, either. [..] The story is convincing up until the end, which feels manufactured for movie purposes."
The film was first released on DVD in 2003 by Columbia TriStar Home Video, but in full frame and without any bonus materials. The DVD was later discontinued for ungiven reasons. In October 2009, Anchor Bay released a new DVD of the film, in its original widescreen presentation, but still without any bonus features, save for the film's trailer.