Sugar Hill isn't much of a movie (reasons why later).

But it does have . . . (drum roll, please . . .) Wesley Snipes.

Snipes not only proves that Black is Beautiful, he also proves that Black is Box Office. While Eddie Murphy's career draws noisily to a close and Denzel Washington wonders if being the Nineties answer to Sidney Poitier is really such a hot idea, Snipes gets to do it all. Washington can't tackle action or comedy - anyone seen Ricochet or Heart Condition? - but Wesley can. Rent the videos of Demolition Man, Passenger 57 and White Men Can't Jump and see Wes make laugh-a-minute mincemeat out of Sylvester Stallone, Bruce Payne and Woody Harrelson's sorry white asses. And he's got the Poitier heavy-acting down pat. Clock The Waterdance and Mo' Better Blues.

In fact, Mo' Better Blues proves something else too - when Washington and Wesley are in a scene together, the one you're looking at ain't the one named after the capital of America. Washington is always too much of a gent. He's limited. Snipes can do middle-class (Jungle Fever) as well as action and still hang out with the home boys (New Jack City). He may lack the depth of, say, Larry Fishburne, but Snipes range is second to none.

It's his choice of films that make one pause. Sugar Hill wants to combine the New Jack audience with the Jungle Fever crowd: all-out violence meets suck-up morality. The final result resembles a blacked-up version of one of those good brother-bad brother Warner gangster flicks from the Forties. It's awfully Hollywood and Wesley Snipes is way too early in his career and far too authentic for that.

(Photograph omitted)

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