- Actors: Wesley Snipes, Michael Wright, Khandi Alexander, DeVaughn Nixon, Marquise Wilson
- Directors: Leon Ichaso
- Writers: Barry Michael Cooper
- Producers: Armyan Bernstein, Greg Brown, Marc Abraham, Rudy Langlais, Steven R. McGlothen
- Format: NTSC, Import
- Number of tapes: 1
- MPAA Rating:
- Studio: 20th Century Fox
- VHS Release Date: May 5 1998
- Run Time: 123 minutes
- Average Customer Review: 8 customer reviews
- ASIN: 6303118232
Sugar Hill [Import]
Roger Ebert tagged Sugar Hill as one of the best of 1994. Leon Ichaso's film is not an action flick; no, this stylish drama wants to be a small gangster epic. Call it Roemello's Way: a thoughtful drug lord (Wesley Snipes) wants to get out of his business but takes forever to do so. A Shakespearean tragedy slowly--far too slowly--evolves. While it has a definite street-smart sense, no new ground is covered. Snipes is worth watching, though, and Clarence Williams III (seen far too seldom on screen) is terrific as his doomed father. --Doug Thomas
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the mecca that African-Americans lived, breathed and
thrived in, has become a pocket of infestation, a neigh-
borhood in hell, a timeshare in Vietnam. There's a war,
children, a war of values, of ethics, of lives, of genera-
tions and, ultimately, the spoils are simply blood, mate-
rial goods and empty futures. Wesley Snipes stars in the
new film Sugar Hill, which follows Roemello, a mid-
level drug kingpin, through the course of what seems to
be a week. Roemello is tired, but why he is exhausted is
never made clear. The film, directed by Leon Ichaso,
takes an unflinching look at both yesterday's addicts
(Roemello's parents) and today's (Roemello's brother
and partner Ray N athan) .The central theme is whether
or not Roemello will choose the true love of his girl-
friend Melissa, played with a defiant presence of char-
acter by Theresa Randle, or his surrogate father Gus,
mafia lord, supplier and the man who attempted to kill
Roemello's now-decrepit father. A battle over territory
ensues between Roemello and a competitor brought in
Roemello's father, played by Clarence Williams III
(who will be overlooked for an Oscar due the film's
release date), dealt drugs, supplied his wife's habit
(which leads to her death) , and lives in a walking death
of memories, regrets and heroin when the film opens.
Ray Nathan, played by Michael Wright, is the clingy,
needy older brother who relies on his Georgetown-
educated brother to balance his street insanity with
calculation and diplomacy. We then begin to see that all
Roemello is, all he has trusted, has abandoned him. Seen
this way we can finally understand why he's looking to
distance himself from his past. But the past is a curious,
vengeful, entangling animal tha t stalks all of Roemello' s
attempts to leave behind a vicious life for...? Well,
Roemello is never quite clear about where he'll go.
Sugar Hill is not one film, but several, and not one
story, but a legion of tales that fold into one another and
entangle tentacles of power, greed, lust, loyalty and
even family values. Two criticisms of this film are, one,
Roemello's character is made peripheral to the business
he actually controls. In a sense, we only see his hands
dirtied twice by murder. One is understandable, though
unjust, while the second is both unjust and inevitable.
Roemello, for all that his character embodies as an anti-
hero, becomes heroic as a drug dealer. His sense of
honor, supposedly gained through experience, makes
his moral caliber above those he deals with, and this is
where the film falters. How can the audience relate to
a good man who commits such a vile act as the extermi-
nation of his own people, his own father through
providing drugs? Is this a good man? Secondly, the film
also falters in that we, the audience, see the shadowed
results of murders-some not even shown. The audi-
ence can't visually connect to the crimes of the film
actually being committed by those we're supposed to
feel something for. In fact, a split occurs between the
good-bad guys and the bad-bad guys. Too many loop-
holes of justification and reverse condemnation perme-
ate the film. Are we, as an audience, so often spoon-fed
pabulum entertainment that we can't handle a mature
film where the characters redeem themselves not into
angels, but at least into something better than what
they were before? Do we need the hero going off into
the sunset so badly that we're willing to justify murder,
drug dealing and racial supplication just to feel good?
Make no mistake, Sugar Hill, even with it's intermit-
tently hard-soft hitting, is a film that needs to be seen, that
needs to beunderstood, and whose complexity and shades
of grey needs to be revealed and delved into. I highly
recommend it and feel strongly about the film, but I do
resent the soft-shoeing around the total impact that could
have been made. It's rated R, we're all adults, so let's live
The opening scene and the scene about the mother and father is very good and sets up the whole movie. Especially the scene with the father and the thugs on the roof, which is fantastic. We understand so much about Roem's motives from that scene that we appreciate his later life and his rage toward the things which affect him later.
I usually don't like movies which are from the nineties but this one stands out. It is worth watching.
But must inherit the wind.
So what? Just as an opera changes according to the players and a symphony is different every time it's played this is a story that is poignant despite its retelling --- especially if it is well mounted. And this one is.
Wesley Snipes is excellent as the drug-dealing son trying to throw off his past and his present in a troubling search that goes back to the future; Michael Wright provides a quirky performance as the older brother who suspects that he lives only as a reflection of his younger, stronger, smarter sibling.
Both perform a shadow play in the flickering light cast by their drug-addicted father, Clarence Williams III. Williams turns in an astonishing performance that, by itself, makes watching the movie worthwhile.
A controlled but authentic performance by mob boss Abe Vigoda is the grimy pallet upon which this tragedy is played out.
At a seminal point in the movie Snipes kills a man after telling him "I'm not like my brother." Yet he is --- but he is not. This ambiguity gives depth and dimension to a fairly pedestrian story line --- and sets the movie apart from the genre.
Superb direction by Leon Ichaso (Crossover Dreams, Bitter Sugar), an arresting ensemble cast, excellent set decoration and locations and a melancholy score makes this one of the best-overlooked movies of the early 90's.
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