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Dennis Wise
The Wire Cutty.jpg
First appearance "Time After Time" (episode 3.01)
Last appearance "React Quotes" (episode 5.05)
Cause/reason Continues as boxing instructor
Created by George Pelecanos
Portrayed by Chad L. Coleman
Episode count 20
Aliases Cutty
Gender Male
Age 40s
Occupation Day laborer and boxing trainer

Dennis "Cutty" Wise is a fictional character on the HBO drama The Wire, played by actor Chad Coleman. Wise is a reformed criminal who is striving to create a boxing gym for neighborhood children. There was a real contract killer named Dennis Wise, who is serving a life sentence in prison. The nickname "Cutty" originates from his serving time in the Maryland State Penitentiary in Jessup, Maryland, which was nicknamed "the cut."




Season 3

Cutty is known as a legendary soldier in Baltimore's drug trade coming to the end of a fourteen-year prison sentence when Avon Barksdale and Wee-Bey Brice arrived at the prison. Cutty is well respected by Avon and many others in his organization for work he performed before going to prison, including murdering someone and then phoning the police from the scene of the crime. Avon approaches Cutty with an offer of work shortly before his release. Barksdale lieutenant Shamrock gives him a homecoming gift in the form of a package of narcotics. After observing a street dealer for a time, Cutty approaches him and offers to supply him for a cut of the profit. The dealer, Fruit, takes Cutty up on his offer but refuses to pay him when Cutty returns for the profits. Fruit then takes out a gun and threatens Cutty, leading him to back down and walk away. Cutty turns to work as a day laborer with a landscaping crew to get by. He tries to track down his ex-girlfriend, Grace Sampson, to reconnect and finds her working as a schoolteacher. She puts him in touch with her church deacon to help him find work, but resists any other involvement. The deacon suggests that Cutty study to obtain his GED, but Cutty sees this as too difficult and, despite his initial hesitation, begins working with the Barksdale crew soon after his parole.

His effectiveness and intelligence as muscle is shown on several occasions when planning raids, hits and general menacing for Avon against competing crews. He quickly earns the respect of Avon's primary enforcer Slim Charles, who throws a welcome home party for Cutty. He works with young soldiers Sapper and Gerard to track down a thief in the Barksdale organization, and his cunning allows them to quickly identify the culprit. Cutty is appalled when the younger soldiers almost kill the young dealer, believing a warning beating would be sufficient to modify his behavior but keep him fit to work for them.

A turf war between the Barksdales and new power Marlo Stanfield provides more work for Barksdale soldiers. Cutty and Slim Charles plan a raid on a Stanfield corner using a pincer movement. Their younger associates ruin their plan by striking too soon and Barksdale veteran Country is killed as a consequence. Cutty and Slim Charles decide to strike back alone but when their moment comes Cutty is faced with Fruit and finds himself unable to fire. It becomes clear to Cutty that he no longer has "the game" in him, which he tells Avon that he's leaving the crew, saying, "I ain’t got it in me no mo'." Avon decides to let him leave, telling Slim Charles that Cutty still deserves their respect.

Wise then begins to build a new life by returning to landscaping and then opening a boxing gym at the deacon's urging. When he is unable to get sufficient funding to equip the gym, he approaches Avon to request the funding. Avon, a former amateur boxer, happily provides the money. Wise receives political backing from the deacon's contact, Rev. Frank Reid. Reid puts Wise in touch with State Delegate Odell Watkins and Marla Daniels. Watkins has Daniels help Wise to get the permits he needs for the gym.

Wise connects with sergeant Ellis Carver through his efforts to encourage children away from drug dealing through sports, and the two develop a mutual respect. He has some success with local children, particularly when the turf war temporarily closes down a lot of the drug dealing business. In particular, one dealer named Justin gets strongly involved in the boxing. However, the turf war comes to a sudden end when Avon is arrested, and Cutty finds his gym quickly deserted as the children return to work. Cutty continues his efforts at personal reform despite this setback.

Season 4

In season four Wise's gym is thriving and he has taken on a number of other trainers to work with the kids. Justin returns to training and begins to compete in local boxing matches. Wise receives a great deal of attention from the women of the neighborhood, including the mothers of some of his trainees, who are, it is suggested, jumping at the opportunity to meet a decent man in a community in which many men have been killed, corrupted or incarcerated. He has become adept at controlling the boys who use the gym and earning their respect, although he jeopardizes his position with some of them as a result of his womanizing. He is also having some success in his work as a landscaper having picked up a working knowledge of the Spanish spoken by most of his colleagues. The crew chief is so impressed with Wise that he offers to make him a partner in the business and put him in charge of a second crew but Wise declines so that he can focus on the gym. Wise begins to take an interest in training a boy named Michael Lee who he believes is a natural boxer. Michael rebuffs Wise's first offer of coaching. Later on, Wise is shot in the leg while trying to convince Michael to leave the corner life. While in the hospital Wise is instrumental in getting Namond Brice off the streets by getting Howard Colvin a sitdown with Namond's father, Wee-Bey. He also begins a relationship with a nurse who had initially mistaken him for a gangster before Colvin corrected her assumption.[1]

Season 5

In season five, Wise is briefly shown when Michael Lee, looking out for his friend Duquan "Dukie" Weems, drops him off to train with Cutty. Cutty watches Dukie fight and, after explaining to him that he has other talents, tries to inspire him to leave Baltimore, though he ultimately admits that he himself, although giving up the criminal lifestyle, doesn't know how to get out.


George Pelecanos is given credit with creating the character of Dennis Wise, based on unused notes from his novel Drama City, about a man getting out of prison after almost two decades. The idea fit well with the theme of the third season, "Reform", so the character was added. According to the book The Corner, there really was a violent criminal named Dennis Wise in Baltimore in the '80's, who served a long time in prison. The real Dennis Wise is also mentioned in David Simon's book Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets. Wise is mentioned as one of the two most infamous contract killers active in Baltimore during the late 1970s along with Vernon Collins. Police were frustrated by the fact that no witnesses could be found against either man. Neither Wise nor Collins would break under intense police questioning, refusing to say anything except for requesting a lawyer. Dennis Wise was eventually sentenced to life in prison in 1979 for a contract killing. He earned his bachelor’s degree in Psychology while in prison. In 1999, Maryland Correctional officials transferred Wise to an Arizona prison in Yuma because he was allegedly leading an influential prison gang. Wise wrote a novel called The Wolf Trap while in prison.[1]



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