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A review of 'Juice' (1992)

This article is a review of the "Juice" film, a 1992 drama/thriller from Ernest Dickerson. It is about four friends who get caught in a web of crime and deceit after a robbery goes wrong. The film saw the début of the late rapper Tupac Shakur.

"Juice"

The movie “Juice” (1992) is a riveting drama that centres around four inner city teens in Harlem who get caught up in a web of crime and deceit. Drawing comparisons with films like “Boyz N the Hood” and “Straight out of Brooklyn,” this is an explosive morality tale. It is about the pursuit of power and respect in an environment that is defined by violence and despair.

Lust for power and respect

While skipping school one day, the four friends (among them are Omar Epps and the late rap star Tupac Shakur) witness an old school friend committing an armed robbery. Later on, they are shocked to learn that the robber was killed in a shootout with the police. The psychotic “Bishop” (Shakur) is tired of being bullied by a local hood. He complains to his friends that the group has no respect or ‘juice’. To get some 'juice', they have to commit a crime. Together, the four friends rob the local grocery store, but the crazed "Bishop" shoots the store owner, turning what was supposed to be a simple robbery into a murder. This random act of violence changes something inside him. The rush of adrenaline, and the lust for power and respect, make "Bishop" turn against his friends. The latter do not want to share the path that he is treading on.

Authenticity

Although the story is not unique, the script sometimes borders on the melodramatic. The final third part of the story strays uncomfortably into conventional thriller territory. However, in the hands of the director Ernest Dickerson, the story takes on a shocking authenticity. While “Juice” is not an overly violent film, there is an ever present threat of violence. When the gunfire starts, it is not dressed up or glamorised. The fact that much of the violence is completely unmotivated makes it all the more shocking.

The late Tupac Shakur

The young cast gave very good performances and added to the film's authenticity. Tupac Shakur in particular (here in his motion picture début), delivers a startling performance as the teenage killer who is high on the thrill of robbery and homicide. Ironically, he was shot dead in a gang feud between the East and West coast rap gangs.

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