[box cover]

Light It Up

Craig Bolotin's Light It Up is the clearest indication of the decline of America's public school system to emerge in the past fifteen years. Six troubled teens, struggling to come to terms with their own identities in the slums of New York, find themselves misunderstood and persecuted by an administration that has written them off as hopeless. In retaliation, they take a police officer (Forest Whitaker) hostage, escalating their desire to be heard into a national media circus. It's not exactly The Breakfast Club, but Bolotin tells this particular tale with impressive flair, taking us deep into the world of its troubled protagonists yet never making them alien to us. We instinctively understand their motivations, and we appreciate the fact that this string of circumstances was not instigated by any major events, but by a cumulative string of little things — including the fact that the heat doesn't work in the school, a plot device which allows Bolotin to use cold to heighten the tension in much the same way that Spike Lee used sweltering heat in his magnificent Do the Right Thing. If the final scenes are disappointingly predictable, the film still manages to play out with admirable sincerity, and the fine acting, particularly from newcomer Usher Raymond, goes a long way toward forgiving the movie's occasional moments of excess. Light It Up is presented in a nice anamorphic transfer (1.85:1). Special features include a "making-of" featurette, the film's theatrical trailer, and two music videos (Master P's "Light It Up" and Ja Rule's "How Many Wanna," both of which are featured in the movie.)
—Joe Barlow

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