"Taking off his coat? I'm scared."
Ask anybody who played high school basketball what his dream was, and I'm sure you'll get the response, "I want to be in the NBA." Well, unless your name is Kobe Bryant or LeBron James, the stop between high school and the NBA is usually a high profile college. Knowing all of this, meet Kyle (Duane Martin) and Shep (Leon). Kyle plays high school basketball, and has aspirations of being recruited to play ball for Georgetown. His downfall is that he's too much of a ball hog, and has a tendency to lose a game trying to be the hero. Shep was "Kyle" many years ago, having all the skills to make it big until his friend died in a freak accident. Now he's a school security guard who watches the game from a far.
The first thing you'll notice in this movie is its prominent "up-and-comer" cast. Leon, Duane Martin, Marlon Wayans, Tupac Shakur, and Bernie Mac each play diverse characters. While it's a novelty to see them before they became stars, there is no performance in particular which I would refer to as a "breakthrough." The movie tries to be a mix between "White Man Can't Jump" and "Juice," but ultimately carves out its own identity with it's deliberate pacing. The violence here is understated, and basketball takes a back seat to the human drama going on between Kyle and Shep.
At first, Kyle thinks that Shep is just a pathetic never-was. His opinion of him is not enhanced when he discovers that Shep is now dating his mother. This sparks a series of events in which Kyle loses control of his own destiny (going berserk when a referee calls a foul on him, and hooking up with the neighborhood drug kingpin). Everything leads up to the big Shoot-Out game, played at Rucker's Playground. For Kyle, this is his ticket out of the inner city and a better life for himself and his mother; for Shep, it's redemption.
Despite being released nearly 9 years ago, "Above the Rim" fares better in today's climate. Nowadays, it's more common for high school players to make it into the NBA, complete with fat contracts and an escape from the harshness of the inner city. Ironically, I had just finished watching an "And 1 Mix Tape" special on ESPN2 before reviewing this movie. If you're into flashy basketball moves and 'hood movies, you should definitely check out "Above the Rim." It's not perfect, but hey, what is these days?
New Line presents "Above the Rim" in Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1 and Full Frame 1.33:1. Through the menu, you can toggle which format you prefer. Colors are very soft and dull, although its probably the way it was filmed (this movie would have benefited from sharper and more vibrant colors). There is very little grain apparent, but the print is marred with occasional specs of dirt throughout the film. We're used to better from New Line DVDs.
The audio is presented here in Dolby 5.1 Surround as well as Dolby 2.0. I kind of expected a little more speaker action from this movie, especially considering it's great soundtrack. Some dialogue sounds a little hollow; but regardless, everything else sounds good with little, if any, audio dropouts.
Static DVD menu offers the choices of "Play Movie", "Set Up Options", "Select a Scene", and "All Access Pass" (Trailers).
You better like trailers, because that's all you're going to get here. One for "Above the Rim", "Love & Basketball", "Carmen: A Hip Hopera" and "Talkin' Dirty After Dark."
I'm kind of indifferent on this one. Had this movie been given a better presentation (Audio, Video, and Special Features), I might be higher on it. One thing it does have going for it is it's reasonable MSRP of $19.98, which means it can be had for around $15 when it comes out. But, unless you're a fan of the genre, I'd tell you it's a definite rental.