Saturday, February 20, 2016

LIGHT IT UP (1999)

Written & Directed By: Craig Bolotin 
Cinematography By: Elliot Davis 
Editor: Wendy Green Bricmont 

Cast: Usher Raymond, Rosario Dawson, Forest Whitaker, Judd Nelson, Robert Ri’Chard, Glynn Turman, Vanessa L. Williams, Sara Gilbert, Clifton Collins Jr., Fredro Starr, Sharif Atkins

On a winter day in a southside Queens high school, events collide and six students are suddenly in an armed standoff with the NYPD. At the school, classrooms freeze, teachers come and go, resources are scant. When a popular teacher is suspended, a few students protest. Jackson, a new security guard, gets tough. In a scuffle, Jackson's wounded with his own gun and a student takes him hostage. A few kids join in, for various reasons. An ineffective policewoman tries to mediate as the police plan an assault, the kids demand improvements to the school, the media pick up the story, and Jackson turns sympathetic. But are too many forces in motion for the students to stay in control?

This is the fourth of the singer usher's big screen adventures. Where at first he was in more small or supporting roles. This was where he finally got a starring role. It seemed like Dimension Films an offshoot of Miramax films made an investment in making him a big-screen star. As he was a hot property at the time. First he had a small role, but was heavily features in the advertisements for the film THE FACULTY. This was after having more of a extended cameo in the surprise teen blockbuster SHE'S ALL THAT. Then he had a full on supporting role in the studios western that never made it to theaters TEXAS RANGERS. Then this film and finally years later he starred in the film IN THE MIX and that has been really the last we have seen of him on the big screen.

This film is actually his best performance, by it is also the one where he has had to stretch the most. Luckily for him this was more an ensemble drama. Rather then him having to do the heavy lifting all by himself.

The film is a perfect teenage youth film. That allows him to seem tough, smart yet sensitive and a bit romantic. The rest of the cast play their parts and character types they seem one note even though most characters show a tiger side of themselves throughout. So that the message is that while most of the adult figures have labeled them and written them off heavily to a stereotype. They actually are more than Once thought.

The film centers on being a hostage movie, but like the characters that is only the wrapping as it is really a movie about seeking social change and standing up for your rights. Using one dilemma to put a face on the problems that might have lead to the dilemma in the first place.

The film is surprisingly mind of downtrodden a lot of times. Making it not quite the happy charming type of film you would expect.

The film is well cast with recognizable actors and at the time up and comers. Who by now of course are recognizable character actors.

The one who makes the most out of his thankless role is Forrest Whitaker. Who again seems better then the role, but makes the most out of it. As the overreacting bullying security guard. Who ends up getting taken hostage and learns the error of his ways. While being taken captive.

Rosario Dawson, as usual shows she is more the. The usual love interest roles she was getting at this point. As her beauty is obvious, but she also always had a vivacious attitude and intelligence that always came across no matter which role not how small it was. It's just a shame as it still feels that she has really only been allowed to tap her full skill in roles. Less then a handful of times.

The film surprisingly lacks any tension. It manages to surprise here and there. But for the most part it pretty cut and dry, predictable.

It's not a horrible or bad film. Just rather non noteworthy. In other words pretty basic. It's not boring as you watch it. Though it probably won't stay with you too much after in your memories.

I have a little history when it comes to this film. The films premiere was held at the movie theater I worked at so I got to see all the commotion of that. I also had to get his autograph for a co-worker. As she was too starstruck to do it herself. So I had to brave a crowd just for the autograph, he did sign it. Though in a more workman like manner never even making eye contact or facing me. (Keep I mind this was before taking selfies instead. The new form of autograph as it is a snapshot of an experience) Even after the premiere we tried to crash the after-party to no avail. Though i wanted to go more to meet Rosario Dawson. (True confessions)

I can see why the film had it's premiere at out theater. As the staff at the time was so young and fresh faced. Not to mention mostly minority. So we were the perfect crowd and audience of the film. As this was the film once it made it to the theater all the staff had gone to watch at a certain point. At least for us it was a hot ticket. It did respectable business. As at first out theater always seemed to get teen films. As we seemed to seek to be the hip theater and the one that would get a bunch of return business from teenagers.

Now I was 19 or 21 once I started working there. Really my first job. Though my taste was maturing. I still had the mindset and taste of liking more blockbuster and general films. It was the time. As by now you can tell I have a soft spot or that sometimes nostalgia is a factor when it comes to my reviews. This film is one of them as it really brings me back to those days. You have to understand it feels like from my teens to my thirties were really my teen years. Now that I am in my thirties I fell, Like a late bloomer so they feel more like my 20's.

Grade: C

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