Above the Rim (1994)


The story follows Kyle Lee Watson (Duane Martin), a talented high school basketball player, who is waiting for a sports scholarship at Georgetown University. In the meantime, he must make a decision whether to listen to his well-intentioned coach and participate in the tournament on his team, or to side with Birdie (Tupac Shakur), a local gangster. In addition, his mother Mejlica (Tonya Pinkins) is dating security guard Shep (Leon), who was also a high school talent but stopped playing basketball due to the tragic death of a friend…

Kyle is self-confident, arrogant, and selfish, which his teammates and coach don’t like. Tempted by what Birdie has to offer, he increasingly listens to him instead of his coach, and a battle ensues over who will control his future. The theme of the film can be seen as his redemption for joining the wrong people, and then there’s Shep, who’s trying to find peace with himself – he hasn’t gotten over the death of his best friend, and now he has a chance to stand up to his estranged brother. As the story progresses, Kyle gets an unexpected mentor in the character of Shep, who provides him with basketball advice and important life lessons.

Our characters overcome many obstacles, and the plot deals with the conflict between good and evil. Although basketball is one of the main themes of the film, we first of all get a strong drama, which failed to avoid certain clichés. Although there was a potential for the entire film to be a melodrama, the director managed to avoid the pitfalls until the very end, when it is understandable due to the stronger effect of the denouement. Objectively, the plot is very simple, but the director finds a refreshing way to present the problems that talented athletes like Kyle face.

The screenwriters present us with a story that mainly revolves around basketball, but they show us the consequences that can happen off the court based on someone’s decision. We get a good story about a talent almost ruined by gangsters, a talent who had to resist dirty money and easy women, and that story is realized very believably. As for basketball moves – there are no lies, no fraud and I believe that they will delight every basketball fan. Anyone who follows this sport can easily distinguish between those who play and those who pretend to play, and here the characters are really real players.

I liked the parallel between the lives of our characters on and off the field because in both cases they have to find the strength to overcome their own physical and mental weaknesses. Each of them is trying to succeed in life, and it is this idea of ​​strength and weakness that makes their characteristics more believable. It can be said that the character of Kyle’s mother is the strongest in the film because she fights for everything alone and has no visible weaknesses, while all the others, although physically much stronger, have them.

Kyle is too selfish and emotional, Shep just walks away when he encounters a problem, Coach has trouble reaching Kyle, while Bugaloo (Marlon Wayans) doesn’t know when to stop joking around. As for Birdie, he depends on bodyguards for his life and is financially insecure after spending much of his life in poverty. The final message of the film is that self-confidence, confidence in your abilities and the need to push on even when you are alone are the sources of true strength. Above all, you need to learn that the world doesn’t revolve around you, just like Kyle learned.

What sets this film apart from others is the appearance of the late rapper Tupac Shakur, who possessed incredible energy and charisma. Here he also shows excellent acting skills, as a gangster who has a smile on his face and a razor in his mouth. Almost the entire casting is excellent, the performances of Dwayne Martin and Leon drive the film, and I especially liked the appearance of Marlon Wayans, who shows here that he still had the potential for more serious roles.