Directed by Ernest R. Dickerson.
Starring Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins, Khalil Kain and Samuel L. Jackson.
Four friends growing up in Harlem spend every day skipping school, stealing records and playing at the arcade. After a series of events, they are involved in a foiled convenience store robbery which results in the owner being shot dead.
Whether it's a sharp dressed Italian or a street-wise hood, both meanings of "Gangster" always seem to deal around the same theme: the downward spiral of corruption. In The Godfather, a seemingly pleasant Michael Corleone ended up murdering half of his family after becoming a crime boss. This has always been the way of representing crime on the big screen; it doesn't pay and everything and everyone you love is at risk. And what better place to let the fetid cloud of corruption prey havoc then in Harlem.
Juice follows 'The Wrecking Crew', four black teenagers who do just about everything that law would rather they didn't. Tupac Shakur plays Bishop, the violent member of the group, who seems to be a bit wilful at first, but slowly turns into the villain of the piece. Whilst I'm only knowledgeable on Tupac for his hip hop career, his acting talent showed a lot of promise. It's just a shame that he took a wrong turn in Las Vegas.
What starts of as a very well scripted cheeky endeavour, the film suddenly takes a sour turn at the films midway point. The gear changes from a Guy Ritchie film to a murder thriller, bordering on an urban nightmare. Dickerson creates a vast feeling of dread that lasts for a good half hour. It's that same pit in your stomach when you think your whole world is falling away beneath you. This sudden change of one comes during a store robbery where the borderline-crazy Bishop accidentally shoots the store owner. After an argument, he shoots his fellow 'Crew' member, Raheem in the heat of the moment. Around this point he get's a taste for murder.
The film then explores the empty feeling of losing a friend whilst break dancing on that horrible sensation of having to keep quiet about what you saw. A funeral scene saw the other members of the 'Crew' promising to keep quiet about who actually shot Raheem. It was a moment where you could almost see the point of no return shoot past into the distance.
Juice is a very blunt insight into the bonds of friendship being torn apart by an environment awash with violence and desperation. It's fine flowing movie with some fantastic character development and cinematography. Towards the end, Harlem no longer feels real, but more like a city of pure shadow.
Juice is released on DVD on October 3rd.
Will Preston is a freelance writer from Portsmouth. He writes for various blogs (including his own website) and makes short films.
Movie Review Archive