Genre Spotlight: Above The Rim


September is a genre month for our Spotlights and this month’s spotlight is on Sports Movies. I must confess to not being a fan of most traditional sports and even less of a fan of traditional sports movies. I think my favorite sports movie might be The Big Lebowski (bowling). See? Not a traditional sports movie. I find most professional sports in this country boring. There. I said it. I feel so much better. For Sports Month, I decided to do things a little differently and watch a movie that I would never have watched on my own and I am glad I did.

Above The Rim is a basketball movie from 1994 that’s famous for starring Tupac Shakur as a drug dealer and for having some of the best street basketball scenes ever filmed. I had never seen this movie until someone recommended it to me as I was having trouble thinking of a movie to review for this spotlight. Ordinarily, I would never have seen this or recommended it. It’s more than a typical sports movie, though. I found myself enjoying this movie in spite of myself (I can’t stand basketball). Yes, it’s full of cliche’s and none of the acting is Oscar worthy (Tupac is a hip-hop Elvis. He can’t act.). Still, the movie does tell an interesting story and showcases a part of New York City that few rarely get to see.

Above The Rim tells the story of Kyle (Duane Martin), a high school basketball star who has dreams of leaving Harlem and going to college to play for the Georgetown Hoyas. Kyle’s a gifted athlete and he knows how good he is. He’s starting to let things get to him. Peer pressure from his friends on the streets and his mother’s guidance are on both sides of Kyle as he tries to live right and play at his best. After a game between Kyle’s school and their rivals, a friend named Bugaloo (Marlon Wayans) who has just been released from prison visits Kyle and introduces him to Birdie (Tupac Shakur). Birdie is the neighborhood bully and drug kingpin who calls the shots on Kyle’s block. Birdie is sponsoring a street basketball tournament which he also bets on. Kyle’s probably the second best player anyone has ever seen play ball in the neighborhood and Birdie wants him on his team. At the same time Kyle meets Shep, a new security guard at the school. Shep is a legend on the basketball courts of Harlem who stopped playing ball because he blames himself for an accident that kills his best friend (It’s a basketball movie so of course the accident happened during a basketball game). At first, Kyle has no clue who Shep is and treats him with disrespect. It’s not until he discovers who Shep really is and sees him in a different light that he starts to listen to what Shep has to teach him.

Above The Rim is a fun movie with heart. The movie shows Harlem before it became Starbuck-ed and has a grittiness to it that is missing from a lot of recent movies set in New York City. It has a surprisingly strong performance from Duane Martin as Kyle and some great scene-stealing performances from Wood Harris (The Wire) and Bernie Mac. Marlon Wayans stole the movie for me. As funny as he is in this you can still the see that he can act. Tupac is the worst actor in the movie. The basketball scenes are all fun and well shot. I am not going to give anything away, but I loved the ending. I’ll leave it at that and let  the viewer see what happens.

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Posted on September 2, 2011, in Genre Spotlight, Sports and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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