Let me admit from the start I have an almost pathological fear of needles. This means I watched several minutes of this film with my eyes closed. If you share the phobia this is not a DVD for you. Sugar Hill has a lot of unfulfilled potential. The acting is mostly first rate and the story is often compelling. The producers mucked it up with too many Godfather clichés from the “I’m your older brother and I was stepped over” to Snipes coming of age at a baptism. Even AbeVigoda shows us what Tessio would have turned into if he hadn’t taken that “ride”.
Brothers Roemello (Snipes) and Raynathian Skuggs (Wright) now run the family drug business that killed their mother and turned their father into a wasted zombie. They are being taken over by local mob boss Gus (Vigoda). Roemello just wants to get out but events pull him back in. Can anyone say Michael Corleone?
The high point of this DVD is the smooth as silk jazz music that dominates the soundtrack. Unfortunately you’ll only find a Dolby 2.0 presentation. Dialogue is often muddled and the overall sound is quite undynamic. The music alone cried out for a better remaster. If you can find the soundtrack CD, pick it up.
Sugar Hill is presented in its original theatrical aspect ratio of 1.85:1. The transfer is mostly a clean one. You’ll find examples of grain and artifacts, but not enough to completely distract you from the film. Blacks are actually particularly deep and rich in detail. Colors are subdued, but that is mostly due to the low lighting that comprises the shoot. I found many scenes to be quite atmospheric.
There is a very short featurette on the making of Sugar Hill, which plays out mostly as an extended trailer with a handful of sound bites. A trailer is also included to complete the DVD’s extra features.
The film suffers from bad editing. Scenes which do nothing to move the story take too long to develop. If you can watch with some patience you will see a rather bittersweet Shakespearean tragedy making this a strong rental. An obvious attempt at style robs the film of any sense of realism, but “If you want history and culture, read National Geographic”.