Starring Duane Martin, Tupac Shakur, Leon, Marlon Wayans, Wood Harris, Tonya Pinkins, David Bailey, Michael Rispoli, Shawn Michael Howard, Bernie Mac
Rough. Spirited. Lasting.
Kyle-Lee: Why are you doin’ this man? It’s just a game.
Shep: Not to me.
Basketball is easily my favorite sport to play, but not my favorite sport to watch. More pertinent, it seems to be particularly difficult to portray dramatically. Boxing would appear to be the most cinematic of sports while basketball is way down on the list. The speed and tenaciousness that comes with a good game of basketball have yet to be shown convincingly on film. The basketball sequences are mainly what make Above the Rim an uneven experience. The story and the characters are enduring; engulfed in basketball culture over 25 years later (Drake wore Tupac’s outfit from this film at a recent NBA playoff game). Kyle-Lee (Martin) is a good kid but a little cocky. Growing up in Harlem, raised by a single mother, he might have what it takes to play at the next level; D-1 college basketball, full-ride. Shep (Leon) used to be that guy. He led his school to a championship and seemed destined for big things in the basketball world. Now he’s a security guard with demons. Birdie (Shakur) is his little brother who’s bad news. These three figures are common character types used and performed well here. Tupac’s energy serves the film well, as does the outstanding soundtrack in which he features heavily. Above the Rim moves fast and might have benefited from a slower, more contemplative tone. As it is though, the film feels raw which works in its own way.
-Walter Lee Howard-