Higher Learning

John Singleton’s third feature (1995)a decisive improvement on Poetic Justice but less fully realized than Boyz N the Hoodoffers a street-smart view of multiracial campus life at a fictitious middle-American university. Among his perceptions is that American education currently functions like a business. The characters include three freshmena black athlete on a track scholarship (powerfully played by Omar Epps), a white woman (Kristy Swanson) coping with a near rape and flirting with bisexuality, and a highly disaffected white youth (Michael Rapaport) who joins a gang of neo-Nazi skinheads. There’s also a stern but understanding professor (Laurence Fishburne), and Ice Cube has a nice part as a malingering intellectual. Aiming at a microcosm of American life comparable in some ways to Do the Right Thing, Singleton can’t quite justify or explicate his parting message (unlearn), but his passion is exemplary. R, 127 min. (JR)

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