Light It Up (1999) Poster

(1999)

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mo0cow30 November 2004
Everyone seems to be putting this film down, but I honestly cannot get enough of it. Not only does this film have a strong message behind it, but it also strips away every defense that people can possibly have for inner-city life (some city areas, not all), and shows the unbearably real lives of teenagers today. The characters are real. Usher Raymond (Lester) gives a believable performance of a young adult, simply doing whatever it takes for Ziggy (Robert Ri'chard), a perfectly portrayed teen, escaping from his father and himself through his talents. Forest Whitaker (Officer Dante Jackson) seems to have captured the confusing officer, who was only out for himself at first. Sara Gilbert (Lynn) is without a doubt perfect in her role as an outcast teen who only wants to be wanted, and silently begs for understanding. Stephanie and Rivers (Rosio Dawson and Clifton Collins, Jr.) are well played and well rounded characters. Stephanie, counting the days until graduation and Rivers, who's motto is "the rules are meant to be broken". The only character flaw in my opinion was Rodney (Fredro Starr), a painful stereotype. As the movie goes on and the plot becomes more intense, we are slowly exposed to the raw lives of the teens. Ziggy (Ri'chard) is severely abused by his father and has taken refuge in the attic of the school. Lynn (Gilbert) only wanted a kiss from the jerk who got her pregnant. He never kissed her or talked to her after. Lester (Raymond) witnessed police officers shoot his innocent father to death. And Officer Jackson (Whitaker) lost his wife and son. The messages in this movie are clear. Stand up for what you believe in. Give everyone a fighting chance despite their age or race. The darkest people have the darkest secrets. These are messages our country desperately needs to hear, especially now.
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brilliantly acted
scoobydoo2000ms18 June 2000
"Light It Up" is smart, heart pounding and filled with suspense that will keep everyone on the edge of their seat. This is a truly smart thriller drama that takes a look at one of the biggest problems facing America.

Everything about "Light It Up" worked from the performances from relative newcomers such as Usher Raymond and Robert Ri'chard to veterans like Forest Whitaker and Vanessa L. Williams. One thing I must say about the cast of "Light It Up" they took the script and performed with the heart and intent of making this film a success.

The best thing about this movie was not the action but the message that it was trying to send the message that everyone deserves to be treated equally and with the same amount of respect.

Also, the characters were richly developed with honesty and integrity that seems to be missing from films I have been watching recently. I'm glad I got the opportunity to watch "Light It Up" because it taught me not to make judgements based upon first impressions.

Whether you like "Light It Up" or not it will touch you and move you to action. This truly is a movie that has spirit and deserves to be watched.
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2/10
Clichéd, far-fetched and dumb
danny-dubs11 August 2007
I've seen worse, which is a backhanded way of saying how crummy this film was. The plot is ridiculous: a student shoots a police officer and five more take him hostage? In a dimly-lit, smoky New York school -- and somehow this clichéd hostage situation takes 24 hours to resolve? Are you serious? A day-long hostage situation -- with a wounded NYPD officer no less, takes all day? I realize this film was made pre-9/11, but still. I looked at the clock and wondered how they could possibly drag this overdone plot on for another hour and 10 minutes.

The acting was mediocre at best all-around, and the characters were seemingly thought up by 7th graders. The child-abuse kid, the pregnant scared girl, the violent gang wannabe, a confused unfortunate victim, the wise-cracking white guy. Please.

Trying to make this hostage situation into a mission for "more textbooks" and better school conditions? Please -- this is a weak attempt to justify writing a movie about a kid who shoots a cop. They're confused, ignorant idiots who get involved in a dumb -- far-fetched -- situation. Don't try and paint them, suddenly, as noble, The most laughable is Ziggy, who lives in the school's attic and admires Michaelangelo so much so that he paints these striking scenes on the walls. You've got to be kidding me.

The "no racism" signs in the protesting crowd? A black kid shoots a black cop and a black negotiator tries to patch it all up. This is a random message.

I understand the overall message, which was poorly portrayed, albeit by some actors who have gone on to respectable careers.

This was a joke though the red sniper lasers on the roof? The worst scene was the kid, fake snow falling, dying in the arms of his buddy on the roof, "promise me" etc. How original.

The epilogue of "I went to prison but now I'm pre-law at XYZ University" ... a fitting way to end a joke of a movie.
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10/10
"The Negotiator" with a Meaning
TERMINATOR18011 February 2002
This is a really great movie, because sometimes we all just want to take a stand, no matter what we have to do,legal or illegal. It even blends a little bit of comedy with the drama. It is definitely worth watching.

***1/2 out of ***** stars
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Silly, another teen angst movie
sychonic17 January 2001
This one has some really good things going for it--chief among them some really good choices for the cast, especially Forest Whittaker. He's quite good as a cop taken hostage by some dissatisfied high school students. The younger cast is pretty good too.

Having said that, this movie really was poor. It tries to produce some ambiguity at the very beginning about how these students somehow got into this hostage situation. But in reality, there's very little ambiguity: the teens assault a police officer, and then point a firearm at him, which during a struggle to obtain it goes off wounding him. They subsequently take the officer hostage, with of the course the threat that he will be further harmed. Just in those few sentences, a number of extremely serious crimes are committed--and it's hard to have much sympathy for these youths no matter how much they may feel misunderstood or ignored.

It would be easier to take such a silly movie in stride, much like "Wild in the Streets" or "Rock N' Roll High School" as just another teen rebel movie if it didn't take itself so deadly seriously. The atrocious script really does a disservice to the actors who are almost all good, the exception going to Vanessa Williams, who is gorgeous but pretty limp here. So many legitimate issues about education, schools, police attitudes, urban decay, teen safety, and so poorly done.

Yet another missed opportunity to put on Hollywood's long list.
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3/10
Another Subpar Cliche Movie About Urban Issues
shaososa25 January 2004
What are Forest Whitaker and Clifton Collins Jr. doing in this? Light It Up is a ridiculously melodramatic piece on problems in low income area schools. While the topic is one that needs to be addressed, the film uses every cliche in the genre and comes off as a textbook popcorn flick. The characters are cutouts from the inner city version of The Breakfast Club or even The Faculty. Watch this with your children when they turn 13 or 14. With them, it could be an outlet for a lesson on current social problems. For anyone older, it will be nothing more than something to watch and spit on at 4 in the morning, as I did recently on Bravo. Matter of fact, what was this doing on Bravo?
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5/10
This Movie Was Unrealistic And Exaggerted!
leighabc12317 August 2009
Warning: Spoilers
How many schools have lighting that inadequate for students during that time period? When did this movie take place? 1952? Why did Rosario Dawson's character get caught up with those rebels if she is so intelligent. I believe there are principals as rude and disrespectful as principal Armstrong. But where were the assistant principals? Why did a school with over 2500 students have just one security guard? Why didn't Robert Richard's character report being abused by his father to a social worker instead of shooting the security guard? Why was Sarah Gilbert's character caught up with that crowd if she was pregnant? Why did Usher's character take out his anger from his father being killed on the security guard? Why did the fired teacher come back to help? What was the point of Fredro Starr's character? In real life, this hostage situation would have been resolved much sooner and all students that were involved would have been charged as adults.
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1/10
By far the worst movie i ever saw
NYCfilmFan19 April 2001
Warning: Spoilers
I guess they reward idiocy today because whoever came up with the concept for this movie was not shot on sight.

This is a morons delight. The worst stereo-types of every ghetto and high school movie is dragged out twisted around and made even more unbearable. Every character in this movie has a sob story beyond sympathy. Lets pray for a remake where the whole school gets nuked.

***Spoiler*** how does a school so run down have the internet in the first place?
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10/10
Very Good, Underrated, and Unknown Movie
justin-matisak23 June 2008
I was watching a movie the other day and saw the preview for "Light It Up", and i must say i had my reserves about seeing it. I am the type of person who will see anything at least once to give it a shot. I must say I am very pleased I watched this movie.

The movie revolves around six students from Lincoln High School in Queens New York trying to make a change in their school. Each at school for different reasons.

Usher Raymond, in his first leading role, played the role extremely well. He took you on a roller-coaster ride, one minute as a sensitive confused young man, the next a young men with a vendetta against those who have done him wrong. He tries to balance the responsibility that he brought upon himself and deciding what is the best for him and his peers.

Forest Whitaker plays the officer the young students of Lincoln high take hostage and plays the role pretty well. Rosario Dawson plays the lead female and is a believable good girl. Fredro Starr plays his usual gangster role as in Save the Last Dance. He is great in those roles because he can put that fear in you that he is crazy and will do anything. Robert Ri'chard makes his big screen debut as Ziggy. he is the quiet kid always trying to make peace and avoid controversy.

If your looking for a movie that will get you thinking about how things are and should be changed this is a movie for you. There is plenty of drama in this movie. There is comedy, a little romance, and a real message in this movie and i suggest if you have not seen it go out and rent it.
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8/10
Light It Up
juicyhotiie27 April 2008
Warning: Spoilers
Well this movie is better than what it seems Yes it seems like a joke but if you watch it car fully you will see the good in it all the teens wanted was to be heard. Yes the characters seemed like they where made up by a bunch of 7th graders but here is the turning point they seem like real life people now i wouldn't go to the level that they went to to be heard but still they did a very good job. Ziggy was my favorite of them all he was the realest you could feel the pain in him the way he acted made you want to cry because he had so much energy that would grab on to you. What i think on this movie is that it was a very powerful movie it shows how life really is its is kind like the movie about the kids that had to write in that note book sorry i forgot the name but still this movie was as interesting.
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7/10
Out of Nowhere
tracee3 November 1999
I just saw this movie tonight. The incident that leads to the seige of the school was such a small thing that at first I didn't think it was possible for so much to come out of so little. But, after thinking a tad longer I realized that it is so easy for things to be blown out of proportion because of what someone says or an accidental occurrence. I thought the storyline was a good one. The movie was entertaining due to the quite frequent jokes and the tension/affiliation between the characters. Part of the reason, however, that the whole thing seemed a bit implausible was because it wasn't revealed until the situation escalated why the characters did what they did. I guess that happens a lot in movies...but it took too long to happen here and holding it off so long didn't really add suspense, increasing interest or anything like that. It made me confused and a little peeved.

On the whole though I liked this movie a lot but it would have made a better TV-movie. I am seriously feeling the soundtrack though...especially Ja-Rule's "How Many Wanna Die," which pulls you in being played during the trailer.
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I really enjoyed the film.
daisy-2424 September 1999
I thought that the film had a lot of strong, positive messages. I thought that the story-line was unique. The acting was phenomenal from everyone in the cast, although my favorite characters were Rivers and Lynn. I thought they were hilarious. Overall, I really enjoyed the movie and I think that most that see this film will enjoy it.
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1/10
This Film Is Horrible
jonscott724 April 2001
This Movie Was In My Opinion Very Ignorant! There Is Only Foolishness As The Motivation Of The Caracters. The Police Procedure Was Unrealistic. The Caracters Generated No Sympathy From Me,The Story Must Have Been Written As The Movie Was Filmed. Unless You Like Police Bashing Stories Don`t Waste Your Time.
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Great movie
imran-1218 November 2001
Granted, this movie isn't particularly true-to-life, but that doesn't make it any less interesting. This is a surprisingly good movie with some superb performances. My conscience wouldn't let me sleep if I didn't take time out to mention that Usher gives a fantastic performance, restoring hope in a world where musicians try hard to be actors and fall miserably short of the mark. This movie is well worth your time; go see it.
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"If this were Westchester, you'ed wait till the millenium"
Skywalker027 August 2001
Someone finally tells the truth.

Light it Up is the story about a group of high school kids pushed to their very witts end. First they're given a learning facility with no heat and not enough text books, then the window breaks and brings in all the cold. When their burocratic principal ignores the complaint and leaves the class taught by prof. Knowles (played by Judd Nelson) but to continute the class at a warmer and more nourishing establishment.

When the principal finds out about the last minute field trip that he allowed, he suspends Mr.Knowles. Mr.Knolwes devoted students voice their discontent for these actions and the principle continues to throw his weight around by suspending the protesting students. When the few students grow in numbers, school policeman Dante Jackson handles things his way. To make a long story short (too late) Jacksons' prejudice judgements forces the students fordge the ultimate revolt and hold Jackson hostage in the school library.

This is a film that doesn't spare any expense to tell the truth about the urban school system and youth culture. The story is powerful, provacative, and true to life. It spotlights the students using sound judgement in the face of ignorent adults.

Usher Raymond gives his best performence to date, and Rosario Dawson shows her versital talent as a character that is far different from her Valerie Brown character in "Jossie and the PussyCats"

It is unfortunate that this film came out when it did, in the mist of the Colombin massacre, or it would have been received better by the public. My only problem with this film is that it took the "Kramer vs. Kramer" route in its epiloge. I felt that this story would have made more of a public statement had it ended without the last ten minutes, but the overall presentation was still good and the message was still there.

This is a film more for the adults interest then the teens, even though teens will be eager to see Usher and Dawson. The film does have a good deal of strong language, drug-use and urban themes that under 17 viewers will need to watch with their parents.

I give this film one of my highest acclaims. It is a must see.
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10/10
All Around Great Movie
Jdevil2-18 June 2007
I started watching this movie expecting to see another rapper trying to be an actor, and ruining a good story. How wrong I was.

The storyline was well played out, as were the actors. While some have been saying things like Not having textbooks, Nor teachers, Nor a Window in a room, Nor a working heater are so impossible. Ill be graduating from a NYC Public School similar to Lincoln soon enough, and I know none of these are impossibilities. I've had classes with no teachers for days, broken heaters in classes, shattered windows in classes in the middle of the winter. And lack of textbooks, thats a constant.

Another thing-- don't discount a Police Officer in a school with a firearm. Much like was shown in this movie, this is accurately depicted, Police officers backing up SSO (School Security Officers), so Police can roam schools with firearms.

All in all, this movie makes a good call to present day students, which might not be seen the same way to adults.
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7/10
A long way from our parents "sit-ins"
chrisbrown645331 July 2000
After watching Light it Up, I remembered how many problems my schools had growing up, and thought to myself, I had it good. Assuming the school could actually have no windows, no textbooks, leaks in the roof, and no heating (in NYC, in the winter, I might add) I can see why the "Lincoln 6" revolted. Lester (Usher), our fearless hero, is drawn into this revolt by circumstances beyond his control. Rodney (Fredro Starr) plays the "thug minded" part of the group who only want to hurt their hostage, Officer Jackson (Forest Whitaker). The group just wants to have their favorite teacher re-hired, and their demands met. Vanessa Williams plays the negotiator Audrey, whom tries to keep the rest of the NYC police force from storming into the school and ending this "crisis".

Overall this movie delivers with it's sentimental value, however it is a little hard to believe that a High School in New York City, in the middle of winter would have few windows, no textbooks, and no heat. Also, it is known that NO school in America that have metro police officers stationed on campus are permitted to carry their firearms with them.

Even with the major mistakes in the preparation for filming, the movie emmits an overall good feeling to the viewer.
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8/10
I was surprised!
Wes-2623 April 2000
I don't normally go into a movie and get surprised because, usually, I'm pretty good at judging the plot of the movie by the trailors. But, "Light It Up" surprised me. I was expecting a home-boy driven, ghetto school, non-stop cursing, lunitical rampage by a bunch of pissed of kids. What I got was a movie filled with smart kids, except for Rodney, looking for a way to get their voices heard, but soon falling into a downward spiral after it all goes wrong. My favorite character of the movie was Ziggy. Robert Ri'chard was great as Ziggy, and I felt that, even though he wasn't as visible, you could feel more connected to him than to the rest. Forest Whitaker was great as Officer Jackson, the real reason behind the school hostage situation. Usher was pretty good as Lester, and I have to say, Lester's destiny in the movie really surprised me. I did not expect the final outcome to end as it did. Fredro Starr played the thug, Rodney. He's normally pretty good at these roles, and this movie was no exception. I really hope anyone that sees this will get past the school violence B.S. and concentrate on the message. The schools are the kid's. They have a right to be heard too. If you see the movie with that type of mentality then you won't come away dissappointed.
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By the numbers script...
tj_director14 December 1999
By the numbers script, in the way that it has unoriginality running through it like a diseased spine, the story isn't new, the histories of the kids gets revealed at certain points. You probably think I hated this film, but I didn't, it is a 'by the number etc...' but with heart, I felt sad at the end, the 3rd act is a good one and it makes you leave the film happy and angry, not at the film but at the topics covered in the film. I saw this in the theatre and it was good, it's one of those films you'll probably miss, and end up watching on video, and I think you'll like it. The performances are notable too, after seeing She's all that and the Faculty I was pleased to see Usher in a more significant film. Definately one to see, if not on the Big screen, the small one will do just fine.
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unrealistic
agentcg14 March 2001
This movie is not for people (like me) that know what the police is all about. EVERY COP is depicted as a itchy-trigger finger, and the Negotiation, and SWAT tactics are very stupidly done, for instance cops shooting at people with apparently no weapons! I understand and respect the message of the movie, but it can be anti-cop. I give this movie an E for effort, but the director needs to do his research on Real Police Tactics.
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3/10
Blechh...
Graham-3819 March 2001
I found this movie to be preachy and unrealistic. It tries to be a movie showing kids fighting against the system, but it doesn't even present a positive solution. I guess I didn't feel really for the kids. I totally can understand what their gripes were and I know how poor the state of schools are, but I found their solution and the way the outside dealt with it to be a big bunch of phooey. If this comes on TV, don't waste your time. Watch Short Circuit again for the 235th time.
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6/10
Actually, there is some very good material here, but the plot is just too predictable. **1/2 (out of four)
Movie-1230 May 2001
LIGHT IT UP / (1999) **1/2 (out of four)

By Blake French:

"I thought it would be interesting to make a film about inner-city high school students from their point of view," explains "Light It Up" writer-director Craig Bolotin. "In most films set in a high school, the adult is the protagonist – a principal or teacher would come into a troubled school and change the students' lives. In ‘Light It Up' the students take responsibility for their actions, and I thought that would make an interesting story."

It is an interesting story, Craig, but unfortunately, it is one riddled with problems and predictable circumstances. "Light It Up" about a group of rebellious teenagers taking charge of their troubled school in New York, shines an intriguing light on the controversy involving poverty-stricken public schools-but the movies style makes for an awkward, disjointed picture that does good things with its material, but could have done so much more.

I hate it when a movie develops its characters through brief voice over narration during the first five minutes, all while their names appear on screen. "Light It Up" portrays its main characters as stereotypical people we feel like we already know. There is an overachiever, a punk-rocker, a hustler, a basketball player, a gang member, and a talented artist. These characters are played convincingly well by some welcome young actors, including pop singer Usher Raymond, Rosario Dawson, Nickelodeon's Robert Ri'chard, the fast-rising Clifton Collins, Jr., Rap musician Fredro Starr, and Sara Gilbert, best known for her role in the TV comedy "Roseanne."

The students barricade themselves in side of their school after a uncommonly unfair day. First, the school's only decent teacher is fired. Second, an accident occurs that leaves a police officer wounded, but not because of the students, because of his own bias judgments. The police officer is played effectively by veteran film actor and director Forest Whitaker, who brings an involving motivation to the story. Of course, the authorities blame the students for the injury, so they take justice into their own hands and hold the officer hostage.

The middle of the movie doesn't really know where to go. The story seems to hit a place where it simply becomes idle. There are interesting relationships that develop, and the more we watch, the more we care about the characters. But every time we start to feel for someone, or when the plot hits an emotional connection with the audience, the film changes its mood so abruptly we couldn't absorb the power it has even if we really wanted to. The film's often overzealous style clearly gets in the way of an otherwise mature script. Rap music plays as highly stylized montage is displayed on screen-"Light It Up" obviously tries way too hard to be hip.

Some of the angles are played on enough, and the story takes several wrong turns. It has a nice setup, respectable issues, and the situation is understood and well developed. There are rational character motives, an intriguing premise, but at the same time the plot often injects necessary informational nuggets when needed. The ending is right on money, but parts are obligatory. The concluding shoot-out and the character's final "promise" speech is involving, but we spot it coming an hour away.

I liked a lot of "Light It Up" including its themes and performances. For producer Tracey E. Edmonds and executive producer Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds, the film's message was a major draw. "It deals with the importance of education, the disparity of the educational system, and says that kids should not have to fight to get a decent education, quotes Tracey. "The script covers a lot of important issues." Unfortunately we have already seen the issues covered in better movies.
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1/10
Unbelievably stupid
orionhi24 February 2019
I thought I'd give it a chance because it has some decent actors in it but after 45 minutes it was so dumb, so unbelievable, so stupid I couldn't watch any more. Their method for creating tension and suspense only makes it worse because it's so unbelievable. Don't even waste your time with this garbage
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9/10
This was an amazing movie
Although I wouldn't have been the person who would have thought to rent this movie if I had seen it in a video store, I saw it on TV for the first time last night and was amazed. It was a terrific movie that I would recommend to almost anyone. The themes and violence could be too strong for young children, but even adults that don't like violence or strong themes in movies should see this movie because the ideas in it are so good that it is worth it. This would be a great movie to watch with a church group of older students or something like that because it stresses some great points and shows a lot about human nature and what makes humans beautiful.
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