1999 / Director. Craig Bolotin.
LIGHT IT UP is an unfortunate title. It immediately conjures up thoughts of teen flicks like BRING IT ON, GET OVER IT and most of the other three lettered movies that saturated screens in the late 90s (they Stepped Up to two letter titles in the 00s). It's not like those movies at all but rather an unexpectedly smart and provoking dramatic thriller. In an impoverished Bronx highschool a group of students become fed up with their substandard facilities and a faculty who couldn't give a damn about them. When a school security guard overreacts and scuffles with one of them, his gun comes loose and the students taken him hostage. The school is shut down and before they know it, the situation is out of control and they're confronted with a stand-off and subsequent media frenzy. It plays out like John Hughes meets John Singleton in a teen thriller that wholeheartedly respects it's audience. The script is tight and the pacing is fluent. It does become slightly cliched in it's final act but the awesome ensemble lifts it up. Rosario Dawson, Clifton Collins Jr, Forrest Whitaker, Sarah Gilbert, Judd Nelson and Usher Raymond are all really good and make LIGHT IT UP something inspiring and unpredictable. Sadly it's almost been lost to obscurity. Even at the time of it's release it flew under the radar and now 15 years later (wow. I feel old) most people would struggle to remember it. If you come across it then give it a whirl. Recommend it to your friends and give it the attention is deserves. It hasn't dated at all and feels just as relevant now as it did back then. Great stuff.