No Longer Sweet: Story of Distress in Harlem

Article excerpt

"SUGAR HILL" Rating: R, language, violence. Running time: 2:03.

THE TITLE of this gripping tale of crime and redemption refers to a once-prosperous section of Harlem that has fallen on tough times. Half a century ago, Sugar Hill was the glamorous destination in Duke Ellington's "Take the A Train." Now, it is besieged by the drug wars.

The recent history of Harlem and Sugar Hill are told through a family. The mother and father (Khandi Alexander and Clarence Williams III) lost their tenuous grip on the middle class because of heroin addiction. Now, ironically, the sons who watched heroin kill their mother and turn their father into a stumble-bum are CEOs of a drug business.

Roemello (Wesley Snipes) wants out, particularly now that he has met a woman (Theresa Randle) worth living another kind of life for. But there is no other way to live for his mercurial brother Raynathan, played by Actor's Studio-trained Michael Wright. Wright gives one of a half dozen or more strong performances that help give this fine film such depth and texture.

And Snipes proves once again that he is one of the few contemporary actors able to combine leading-man star charisma with the skill of a superb movie actor.

"Sugar Hill" aspires to be a black "Godfather," and frequently succeeds. Barry Michael Cooper's script manages to tell a thoughtful and humane story within a context of terrifying violence. …

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