Light It Up (1999)
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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.
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.
***1/2 out of ***** stars
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.