** (out of 4)
Kyle (Duane Martin) is an intelligent black kid who is growing up in a rough neighborhood but he might have a way out when he gets some interest from various college scouts. Kyle's friend gets him involved with a drug dealer named Birdie (Tupac Shakur) who offers him some great stuff but he doesn't realize what might be connected to it.
When you look back at the early 90s, Hollywood was cranking out a lot of urban dramas thanks in large part to the sucess of BOYZ N THE HOOD. These urban dramas look at a variety of situations so it was only a matter of time before the basketball courts became the plot and the end result is ABOVE THE RIM.
I don't think there's any doubt that the filmmakers had their hearts in the right place but the movie just doesn't work as well as it should have. The biggest problem is that there's really nothing new here. You've got a smart kid who isn't bright enough to see why he shouldn't be connected to this drug dealer. You've got the bright kid who is also a whiz at basketball, which is going to attrack sharks because of the money aspect.
All of this is told is a familiar fashion and what's worse is the fact that it doesn't throw us any surprises or anything else for that matter. The film and the characters basically play out as you'd expect them to so there's really nothing here that keeps the drama up.
The one saving grace are the performances, which include nice work from Martin, Leon and Marlon Wayans. You've also got a nice performance from Bernie Mac in a supporting bit. The film belongs to Shakur, however, you once again showed what a major talent he was in the acting field.