Rated: R for violence. Reviewed by: Frank Release date: January 11, 1995 Released by: Columbia Pictures
Director John Singleton (Boyz n the Hood) uses the fictional Columbus University campus as the backdrop for bringing together angry racial fringe factions and a calming center. It is specially about students who carry self-made anchors and how they deal with their self-limitations.
Malik Williams (Omar Epps) complains that only whites can succeed and Reny (Michael Rapaport) laments that only minorities can succeed because of affirmative action. Each has the opportunity to move toward the radical edge or learn to grow into a pluralistic society on campus.
Each of the characters is driven toward a violent climax in which death and a vicious hand-to-hand fight are played out beneath portraits of Washington and Jefferson.
Singleton, however, doesn't stop at the violence. He offers hope at the end as two student, Malik and Kristen Connor (Kristy Swanson), comfort each other after the carnage. It's a little like the last scene in West Side Story.
Singleton's direction and writing weave a story on campus which reflects the society at large. He tackles racial problems with no sympathy for either side. He is harsh toward each faction of ugly, blind hate.
Laurence Fishburn as Professor Phipps is the calm center of campus. He challenges and lectures, particularly at Malik. and warns that his limitations are in him and not in the society as a whole. Fishburn is impressive, particularly when this perfrmance of a calm rational man is contrasted with his violent performance in "What's Love Got To Do With It.
Ice Cube is both menacing and comical as the long time student who is bright and well read but uncompromising in his belief that blacks can't make it in American society.
The most dynamic and stunning performance falls to Michael Rapaport who plays a young man from a rural community, who is uncomfortable in the mixed society on campus and who gradually descends into the world of hate rather than enlightenment which should come from "Higher Learning."
Singleton is willing to tackle difficult societal problems on the screen as are many other. His genius revolves around his ability to present the problems in an interesting, provocative and entertaining manner.