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Sugar Hill

Wesley Snipes does what he can in this recycled gangsta melodrama, but screenwriter Barry Michael Cooper's follow-up to his debut sensation New Jack City is simply Old Jack Dullsville. Directed with a smooth lack of inspiration by Leon Ichaso, Sugar Hill casts Snipes as the softer side of his New Jack persona — a cunning and hardened Harlem drug dealer with a mid-life jones to leave town, settle down, and raise a family. But a life of murder and pestilence is not so easy to wriggle out of, especially when it involves an aging mob kingpin (Abe Vigoda), an upstart dealer (Vondie Curtis-Hall), and, you guessed it, an irresponsible, temperamental older brother (Michael Wright, amongst the worst actors ever) who has always felt upstaged by his pensive sibling. To say that Sugar Hill is derivative would denigrate the superior works from which it leeches, and Cooper's cannibalism of his only previous screenplay says it all about the movie's been-there, done-that stupor. Snipes is good (isn't he always?), but after his quick rise to stardom, Sugar Hill is only one in a long career of bewilderingly bad choices for this talented actor. Theresa Randle is fetching as Snipes' love interest, but her character is far too sensible to be anywhere near this movie. Fox's DVD release offers a decent anamorphic transfer (1.85:1) and Dolby 2.0 Surround audio. Featurette, trailer. Keep-case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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