Thanks to the magic of the movies, Tupac is still among us. Even though the controversial recording artist and actor died of gunshot wounds over two years ago, his career is now hotter than ever. In fact, Gridlock'd, one of his final films went into national release in late January and several reviewers wrote that it was his best performance to date. It's hard to know what sort of actor Tupac might have become but one thing's for sure, he definitely had screen presence. Check him out in Above the Rim (1994), a sports drama with an inner-city background. In it, he plays Birdie, a neighborhood drug dealer who also happens to manage a very competitive basketball team. Forget fair play. This guy is a number one badass and he gets particularly nasty when any of his players try to leave the team. Like Kyle (Duane Martin), a basketball star at the local high school who gets an opportunity to play college ball for Georgetown University. Birdie, however, has other plans for Kyle and they don't include making it out of the ghetto alive. But fear not, for Kyle has a guardian angel named Shep (Leon), a former basketball legend now working as a high school security guard.
Above the Rim is reminiscent of those old James Cagney-Humphrey Bogart urban melodramas of the thirties like City For Conquest and Kid Galahad in terms of its formulaic plot - a promising young athlete, a local gangster who wants to exploit him, a fading sports star trying to redeem himself, and the all-or-nothing game which will decide our hero's future. But it has a sense of urgency and authenticity that those old Warner Brothers' melodramas sometimes lacked. And, in addition to Tupac Shakur, Above the Rim also features some of Hollywood's most promising up-and-coming African-American actors like Marlon Wayans (Mo' Money), comedian Bernie Mac, David Bailey, and Tonya Pinkins.
Above the Rim (1994)
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