Light It Up

Light It Up

Facts and Figures

Run time: 99 mins

In Theaters: Wednesday 10th November 1999

Distributed by: 20th Century Fox

Reviews 2.5 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 38%
Fresh: 18 Rotten: 30

IMDB: 6.0 / 10

Cast & Crew


Producer: Tracey E. Edmonds, Kenneth "Babyface" Edmonds

Starring: as Lester Dewitt, as Officer Dante Jackson, as Stephanie Williams, Robert Ri'chard as Zacharias 'Ziggy' Malone, as Zacharias 'Ziggy' Malone, as Rodney J. Templeton, as Lynn Sabatini, Clifton Collins, Jr. as Robert 'Rivers' Tremont, as Principal Allan Armstrong, Vic Polizos as Capt. Monroe, as Audrey McDonald

Light It Up Review

Light It Up smolders and spits out some smoke, but no fire. The film treads lightly on the volatile crossroads where disenchanted inner city youth meet the desperate state of urban public education. A la Higher Learning, the prevailing simplification of issues concludes with empty and confusing platitudes in answer to some complex stuff.

Queens, New York - it's about as bad as it can get at Lincoln High. Almost nobody has textbooks, snow is blowing through broken windows in dilapidated classrooms, and student favorite Mr. Knowles (Judd Nelson - The Breakfast Club, From the Hip) was just fired for no good reason by heavy-handed Principal Armstrong. When Officer Dante Jackson (Forest Whitaker - The Crying Game, Jason's Lyric) struggles to detain gifted student artist "Ziggy" Malone on bogus charges, Lester Dewitt (Usher Raymond) takes matters into his own hands by seizing the Officer's gun and taking Jackson hostage. Now barricaded against the New York Police Department, the basketball star Lester, the artist "Ziggy," along with a student council member, a punk-rocker, a hustler, and a gang banger have to figure out what they are standing for.

Lester and the other students ultimately attempt to use their newfound leverage to demand improvements for a decent education. They use e-mail to rally support from the community and dispel allegations by the media that they are nothing but violent gang vigilantes. As negotiations fail, the stakes for Lester, the other students, and Officer Jackson escalate. The dramatic climax centers around whether loss of life can be avoided as the NYPD closes in without meeting Lester's conditions.

Some may contend that Light It Up does well to leave its audience frustrated with incomplete answers; after all, there are no easy solutions to the problems it examines. On the other hand, it seems irresponsible to present such radical actions and then gloss over the consequences in this incomplete fashion. Call me old school, but I'd rather "light it up" with a pint of JD than a ticket to this show - at least a hangover usually has a few decent stories to go with it.

Hole in the fire.