Sugar Hill (1994 film)

Sugar Hill is a 1994 American crime film directed by Leon Ichaso and written by Barry Michael Cooper. It stars Wesley Snipes and Michael Wright as brothers Roemello and Raynathan Skuggs. Considered the second film of Cooper's "Harlem Trilogy", it focuses on the two brothers who are major drug dealers in the New York City neighborhood of Harlem, specifically the namesake Sugar Hill.

Sugar Hill
Sugar hill 1994 movie poster.jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed byLeon Ichaso
Written byBarry Michael Cooper
Produced by
  • Greg Brown
  • Rudy Langlais
Music byTerence Blanchard
Distributed by20th Century Fox
(United States)
J&M Entertainment
Release date
  • February 25, 1994 (1994-02-25)
Running time
123 minutes
Budget$10 million[1]
Box office$18.3 million[1]


Through the course of the film, several flashbacks are shown involving the Skuggs brothers, including (in the beginning of the film) the drug-overdose death of their mother Ella (Khandi Alexander), the non-fatal shooting of their drug-addicted musician father, Arthur Romello "A.R." Skuggs (Clarence Williams III) (ultimately at the hands of the man they would later work for—Gus Molino (Abe Vigoda), and a scene where Roemello is offered a full scholarship to Georgetown.

Roemello as a teenager (Dulé Hill) avenges his father's shooting by shooting and killing Sal Marconi (Raymond Serra), Gus's cousin. After contemplating for a while, Roemello decides to quit dealing and start a new life with his girlfriend, Melissa (Theresa Randle), to the disdain of Raynathan, who is scared and hesitant to leave the drug game. However, Roemello learns that getting out is nowhere near as easy as getting in.

A series of events lead up to Roemello's eventual departure from the drug game, such as the death of his best friend, Ricky Goggles (Steve Harris) at the hands of an up-and-coming Brooklyn drug dealer and former boxing champion, Lolly Jonas (Ernie Hudson). The Skuggs brothers and their associates find Ricky's burned body hanging from the side of a neighborhood apartment building. They later go after and then kill Tony Adamo, one of the other men responsible for Ricky Goggles’ death. Because of this, an eventual street war starts off between The Skuggs crew and Lolly's organization.

Melissa becomes more hesitant of being involved with Roemello, because of his lifestyle. After learning of the death of an aspiring teenage “stick-up kid”, Kymie (Donald Faison) in Roemello's neighborhood (Kymie, in fact, saves Roemello's life in a drive-in shooting by Lolly's people), she decides to break off with Roemello and would have one date with basketball star, Mark Doby (Vondie Curtis Hall).

The date starts off fine as Mark takes Melissa back to his house but he becomes drunk, physically and verbally abuses Melissa and nearly rapes her by forcing her to perform oral sex. She barely escapes by punching Mark in the groin and running out the door. As she returns home, she is shamed by her mother for being a “tramp”. She finally returns to Roemello and they begin to make plans to leave New York City.

Before Roemello and Melissa depart for North Carolina, they stop by to visit A.R. However, upon arriving at A.R.’s apartment, they find him dead of a drug overdose. Raynathan gave A.R. the heroin that would eventually kill him, with Raynathan’s reasoning being that he wanted “put him out of his misery”. Raynathan is found across the street, coming out of Gus’ restaurant, where he gunned down Gus, Lolly, and Harry, Gus's son.

Roemello tells Raynathan what happened to A.R., but Raynathan accepts responsibility of their father's death. After seeing Melissa waiting for Roemello, Raynathan fires his gun at her, and the brothers proceed to fight each other and Raynathan accidentally shoots Roemello. Realizing this, Raynathan panics and shoots himself in the stomach, taking his own life.

Roemello and Melissa, sometime later, do move to North Carolina, where they have a young son, but Roemello is found in a wheelchair, likely paralyzed from the waist down (though the extent of the paralysis is not fully explained), however he is enjoying family life.



Critical responseEdit

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 20% based on reviews from 10 critics, with an average rating is 4.9/10.[2] Todd McCarthy of Variety called it "a self-indulgent drama" that plays like a dreary variation on New Jack City",[3] Cooper's first film. Janet Maslin of The New York Times called it "an ambitious but terminally self-important film".[4]

Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times wrote that it "sinks under the weight of excessive violence and a welter of overwrought plot contrivances".[5] Owen Gleiberman of Entertainment Weekly rated it C− and wrote, "Though the movie itself isn’t much — a dawdling inner-city pastiche of Mean Streets and the Godfather films — a couple of the performers do succeed in fleshing out their threadbare roles."[6]

Michael Gonzales of Stop Smiling in 2007 referred to Cooper's first three film screenplays as his "Harlem trilogy." Gonzales said that Cooper has had an influence on "hip-hop culture that can be heard in Jay-Z’s lyrics and seen in P. Diddy’s style."[7]

Year-end listsEdit

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ a b "Sugar Hill - Box Office Data". The Numbers. Retrieved 27 July 2011.
  2. ^ "Sugar Hill (1994)". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  3. ^ McCarthy, Todd (1993-09-02). "Review: 'Sugar Hill'". Variety. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
  4. ^ Maslin, Janet (1994-02-25). "Sugar Hill (1994)". The New York Times. Retrieved 2020-02-02.
  5. ^ Turan, Kenneth (1994-02-25). "MOVIE REVIEW : King of 'Sugar Hill': Acting or Violence? : The drama set in Harlem about a drug lord who wants out has a strong cast, but its sensitive scenes are lost in the bloodshed". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
  6. ^ Gleiberman, Owen (1994-03-11). "Sugar Hill". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2015-02-14.
  7. ^ Gonzales, Michael A. (April 2007). "Baltimore Orator: Barry Michael Cooper". Stop Smiling Magazine. Retrieved 14 June 2019.
  8. ^ MacCambridge, Michael (December 22, 1994). "it's a LOVE-HATE thing". Austin American-Statesman (Final ed.). p. 38.
  9. ^ Mills, Michael (December 30, 1994). "It's a Fact: 'Pulp Fiction' Year's Best". The Palm Beach Post (Final ed.). p. 7.

External linksEdit