Above The Rim Review

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A young man makes several bad decisions on his way to becoming a basketball star.


The problem with this, yet another basketball movie, is that it can't quite decide what it wants to be. Aiming to be both a piece of high-five entertainment and filled with Spike Lee-style controversy, it misses the basket on both and lacks the pace and dramatic weight essential for sports films to work.

The hardcourt story revolves around Kyle (Martin), a young black basketball player of prodigious talent but questionable judgement. When he is seduced by promises of financial gain from a local drug dealer, Birdie (Shakur), Kyle's mother (Tonya Pinkins) and a secretive ex-player Shep (Leon) attempt to stop him straying from the straight- and-narrow by getting him on to a basketball scholarship instead.

The movie is brimming with stereotypes - single mothers, drug dealers, rasping coaches - but fails to get to grips with the reality of its inner city setting, reducing its protagonists' various struggles to the realm of good guys versus bad guys cliches. Pollack struggles to develop the parallels between Kyle's on-court frustrations and his volatile personal relationships off, following a formulaic path to the film's predictably gun crazy climax. Despite some enlivened direction, this seems far more concerned with the codes of male bonding than developing the tension and energy. Moreover, you can't shake the feeling that the movie contains too much technical jargon for an uninitiated British audience.

It ain't got game.