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"LIGHT IT UP"
(1999) (Usher Raymond, Forest Whitaker) (R)

Alcohol/
Drugs
Blood/Gore Disrespectful/
Bad Attitude
Frightening/
Tense Scenes
Guns/
Weapons
Moderate Moderate Extreme Heavy Extreme
Imitative
Behavior
Jump
Scenes
Music
(Scary/Tense)
Music
(Inappropriate)
Profanity
Moderate Minor Heavy Heavy Extreme
Sex/
Nudity
Smoking Tense Family
Scenes
Topics To
Talk About
Violence
Moderate Mild Moderate Moderate Extreme


QUICK TAKE:
Drama/Suspense: Some students learn about each other after taking over their rundown school and holding a security guard hostage while trying to have their demands met.
PLOT:
Lincoln High School in Queens in literally falling apart. With no money to fix the myriad of problems facing it, the students are forced to attend freezing cold classes in leaky rooms. When Ken Knowles (JUDD NELSON) takes his class "off campus" to find a suitable place for learning, Principal Armstrong (GLYNN TURMAN) decides to suspend him despite being the one who told the teacher to find any place to hold the class.

Knowles' students, including Stephanie Williams (ROSARIO DAWSON), the brightest one who can't wait to get a better education, and Lester Dewitt (USHER RAYMOND), whose academic and athletic prowess has suffered ever since police shot his father several weeks earlier, protest the decision. When things begin to get out of control, Armstrong calls new security guard and current city cop, Officer Dante Jackson (FOREST WHITAKER), to handle the situation.

When Armstrong announces that Stephanie, Lester and his good friend and talented artist, Zacharias "Ziggy" Malone (ROBERT RI'CHARD), will be suspended and sent home for their actions, Ziggy freaks out, prompting Jackson to attempt to restrain both him and Lester. As a result, Jackson's firearm is accidentally shot, hitting the officer in the leg.

Realizing things will only get worse if they give in, Lester grabs Jackson's gun and takes the officer hostage, ordering most everyone else out of the school. Those staying include Ziggy and Stephanie, who decides she has to attend to Jackson's wound, as well as Robert "Rivers" Tremont (CLIFTON COLLINS, JR.), the school hustler who witnessed what transpired.

Joining them is Rodney J. Templeton (FREDRO STARR) the tough school thug who's trying to avoid some gangsters waiting outside for him, and Lynn Sabitini (SARA GILBERT), an angry and caustic teen who's just learned that she's pregnant.

As the police and SWAT teams arrive and surround the school, Lester and the others try to figure out what to do while Jackson tries to convince them to stop their insanity lest they face far more serious problems. With police negotiator Audrey McDonald (VANESSA L. WILLIAMS) racing against time to prevent the gung ho police from storming the barricaded library, the small group of students hopes that they and their demands for a better school are taken seriously.

WILL KIDS WANT TO SEE IT?
The student/teen-based angle of the story might draw some, but this one seems destined for a quick trip to the video stores.
WHY THE MPAA RATED IT: R
For language and violent content.
CAST AS ROLE MODELS:
  • USHER RAYMOND plays the unofficial leader of the school takeover, an athlete and good student who's reacting to his world falling apart (the police killed his father, his school is falling apart, etc…) and uses strong profanity.
  • FOREST WHITAKER plays the cop who treats the students like thugs and ends up getting shot after struggling with one of them. He then tries to play mind games with them, but soon comes to know and somewhat care about them and their predicament.
  • ROSARIO DAWSON plays the smart kid who goes along with the takeover to help the wounded cop, but also to protest what's been going on at her school. She uses some mild profanity.
  • VANESSA L. WILLIAMS plays the police officer who tries to negotiate with the students.
  • JUDD NELSON plays the students' caring teacher who's truly concerned about them and their education.
  • ROBERT RI'CHARD plays the somewhat shy artist of the group who unwittingly starts the whole thing (and ends up accidentally shooting Jackson) after not wanting to be sent home where his father will beat him again.
  • FREDRO STARR plays the tough and rough around the edges gang member who wants to make a point by the takeover and wants to run the show. He uses strong profanity and briefly smokes what looks like a joint.
  • CLIFTON COLLINS, JR. plays the school hustler who's always looking for an angle to score and smokes some (including what appears to be a joint).
  • SARA GILBERT plays an insecure and angry student who's just found out she's pregnant and uses strong profanity.
  • GLYNN TURMAN plays the overwhelmed school principal who lets things escalate out of control due to some bad decisions.
  • CAST, CREW, & TECHNICAL INFO

    HOW OTHERS RATED THIS MOVIE


    Curious if this title is entertaining, any good, and/or has any artistic merit?
    Then read OUR TAKE of this film.


    (Note: The "Our Take" review of this title examines the film's artistic merits and does not take into account any of the possibly objectionable material listed below).


    OUR WORD TO PARENTS:
    Here's a quick look at the content found in this R-rated drama/thriller. Profanity is extreme with more than 65 "f" words being used (some in rap songs on the soundtrack), along with plenty of other profanities and colorful phrases. Violence is also extreme due to several people being shot and killed with guns, other fights and related acts, and threats of shooting or otherwise harming a hostage.

    Some of those acts have bloody results, and most indicate bad attitudes (including the students taking an officer hostage, but other bad attitudes are also present). In addition, many of those scenes and others may be suspenseful to some viewers.

    A female student has discovered that she's pregnant, while a few sexually related comments are made. The same holds true concerning alcohol and drugs, although it appears that two characters share a joint in one scene. Some smoking also occurs and we hear of and/or see flashbacks to tense family scenes (we hear of one student being beaten by his father and see another student's father being accosted and then shot and killed by police).

    Due to the heightened sensitivity of school-place violence, you may want to more closely examine our listed content should you still be concerned about the film's appropriateness for yourself or anyone in your family.


    ALCOHOL OR DRUG USE
  • Rivers separates rows of salt as if they're lines of cocaine.
  • As the students randomly pick what their demands are, Rivers says that he wants a martini.
  • Rivers smokes and then hands what's presumably a joint to Rodney who then takes a drag from it. Later, when seeing their pictures on the TV news, Rodney jokes that Rivers "probably has a doobie in his right pocket," and Rivers replies, "Always."
  • BLOOD/GORE
  • Ziggy has a little bit of blood coming from his nose.
  • Jackson's leg is a bit bloody from where he was shot and we then see blood on his hand from touching the wound.
  • Rodney shows some scars on his torso from previous gang-related wounds and later we see scars all over Ziggy's back from where his father has beaten him.
  • After being elbowed in the mouth, Rodney spits out some blood onto the floor (and his teeth are bloody).
  • We see some blood on Lynn's hand.
  • We see some blood on a person who's been fatally shot.
  • DISRESPECTFUL/BAD ATTITUDE
  • The students, despite their legitimate complaints, have both for taking Jackson hostage and holing up inside the school as terrorists.
  • A decision maker related to the school -- and responsible for its poor conditions -- has both.
  • A thug tries holding up a fast food restaurant at gunpoint.
  • A student lies to TV reporters about what went on inside the school during the takeover.
  • The police have both for accosting and then shooting an innocent man, while Ziggy's father has both for beating his son (only the former is seen).
  • In a flash-forward sequence, we see Rivers selling Army goods to others for cash.
  • FRIGHTENING SCENES
  • Once the students take over the school, much of what follows (and scenes listed under "Violence") may be tense and/or suspenseful to viewers.
  • A thug holds up a fast food restaurant with a shotgun and threatens Knowles and his students.
  • Jackson arrives in the school office to quell a mini-protest and starts to drag away Ziggy who fights him. Lester then jumps on Jackson's back and they struggle with Jackson's handgun flying out and across the floor. Jackson then pushes Lester back against a wall and Ziggy grabs the gun and aims it at Jackson. He then grabs Ziggy and as they struggle, the gun goes off and shoots Jackson in the leg. Another guard then tries to take Ziggy away, but Lester grabs the gun and aims it at Armstrong.
  • The long ending sequence where the police are closing in on the students, including moments where we see the red target lights from sniper rifles on characters' bodies (indicating they may be shot at any moment) may also be tense or suspenseful to viewers.
  • GUNS/WEAPONS
  • Handguns/Shotgun/Assault weapons/Sniper rifles/Molotov cocktails: Carried by police and/or used by them or others to threaten, wound or kill people. See "Violence" for details.
  • IMITATIVE BEHAVIOR
  • Phrases: "Shut the f*ck up," "Sit the f*ck down," "Get the f*ck out of here," "We're f*cked," "F*ck you," "I don't give a sh*t," "Holy sh*t," "Eat sh*t," "Bitches" (for women and men), "Nigger," "Punk," "Stupid ass," "You cry like a little bitch," "Kick my ass," "Shut up," "Silly ass," "Slags," "Kiss my ass," "Virgin boy," "Piss," "Sluts," "Knocked up" (pregnant) and "Balls" (testicles).
  • It's possible students may get a similar idea to take over a school and/or take someone hostage.
  • Rodney grabs his crotch to taunt someone and Lynn, who has multicolored hair, gives "the finger" to some other girls.
  • Rivers makes the hand gesture for male masturbation.
  • JUMP SCENES
  • Jackson suddenly grabs Lester.
  • Rodney suddenly grabs Jackson.
  • MUSIC (SCARY/TENSE)
  • A heavy amount of suspenseful and ominous music plays during the film.
  • MUSIC (INAPPROPRIATE)
  • Various rap songs play during the film (with some lyrics that couldn't be understood), but we did hear at least several "f" words as well as "Nigger(s)" in some of them.
  • PROFANITY
  • At least 65 "f" words (7 used with "mother," 1 used sexually), 42 "s" words, 1 slang term for breasts ("t*ts"), 13 asses, 8 damns, 7 hells, 1 S.O.B., and 7 uses of "G-damn," 4 of "Jesus," 3 of "Oh my God," 2 of "Jesus Christ" and 1 use each of "My God" and "Oh God" as exclamations.
  • SEX/NUDITY
  • We learn that Lynn is pregnant.
  • Lynn comments that Stephanie will just use her "t*ts" to get ahead in the world.
  • Lynn says that if she knew this whole incident was going to happen (and talking about the guy who got her pregnant), "I never would have f*cked him."
  • The students joke about Lester having some "extra large magnum condoms" and he replies that he does and the others then call him "virgin boy."
  • SMOKING
  • Rivers smokes several times, while Lynn, several miscellaneous characters and a reporter also smoke.
  • TENSE FAMILY SCENES
  • We learn that police killed Lester's father (in front of Lester) who thought he was pulling out a weapon.
  • We learn that Ziggy's father beats him (we see the scars on the student's back).
  • Jackson mentions that his wife and kid are "lost" to him (they've left him).
  • TOPICS TO TALK ABOUT
  • The students' way of dealing with the school-related situation (protesting and then taking someone hostage).
  • School related violence.
  • The way the police reacted to the situation.
  • One of the girls being pregnant and still in high school.
  • VIOLENCE
  • Rodney pushes his way through other students to get through them and away from some thugs who are after him.
  • Patrolling the hallways and not liking Lester talking back to him, Jackson grabs him and pushes him up against a wall and Lester struggles with him.
  • A thug tries holding up a fast food restaurant at gunpoint and threatens Knowles and his students. Knowles eventually hits the gunman over the head with something that shatters and apparently knocks him out.
  • Lynn hits a wall-mounted trash can with her backpack, knocking part of it to the floor.
  • Jackson arrives in the school office to quell a mini-protest and starts to drag away Ziggy who fights him. Lester then jumps on Jackson's back and they struggle with Jackson's handgun flying out and across the floor. Jackson then pushes Lester back against a wall and Ziggy grabs the gun and aims it at Jackson. He then grabs Ziggy and as they struggle, the gun goes off and shoots Jackson in the leg. Another guard then tries to take Ziggy away, but Lester grabs the gun and aims it at Armstrong.
  • As they barricade the school, Rivers runs along and breaks all of the overhead lights in a hallway.
  • Jackson suddenly grabs Lester by the neck. They then struggle until Lester hits the wound on Jackson's leg.
  • Rodney pushes Rivers and then starts punching him until they're separated by the others.
  • After Rodney unlocks Jackson's handcuffs so that he can use the bathroom, the cop elbows Rodney in the face, sending him crashing to the floor, dazed.
  • Police fire at the students through their barricade. In turn, Rodney throws a Molotov cocktail at them that blows up and ignites their barricade.
  • Lester threatens Rodney with the gun (and he urges Lester to shoot him).
  • In a flashback we see cops struggling with Lester's father and then kicking him (in slow motion) on the ground. We then see them repeatedly shoot him on the ground (but without any graphic details).
  • Lester pushes Jackson up on top of the roof.
  • We hear a gunshot, but don't see if anyone or anything was hit.
  • A person is shot and killed.



  • Reviewed November 3, 1999 / November 10, 1999

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