9 October 2011 | StevePulaski
Is it worth the squeeze?
Juice is yet another hood film that presents itself honestly and with a good sense of realism. It doesn't capitalize on anything but the reality and the dangers of growing up in a city lead by gun violence and senseless murders. In the mix of it all are four Harlem boys all portrayed effectively by Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins, and Khalil Kain.
The boys call themselves "The Wrecking Crew," and are trying to survive with what they have in a dangerous town. They spend most of their time at an arcade or a record shop when they cut school a little early, most of the time being harassed by the police or a gang in the process. One day, one of the boys named Bishop (Shakur) buys a gun, and convinces the other three members to come along in stickup. They rob the store, and from that moment on things go from bad to worse for the boys.
There is a subplot involving another one of the gang's members nicknamed "Q" (Epps) who is an aspiring DJ, and has a big DJ competition the night of the planned robbery.
Writer and Director Ernest R. Dickerson has worked as the cinematographer on various Spike Lee films, and this marks his very first shot behind the camera. While Juice is passable and well-made, it suffers by comparison with film's made by Lee like Do the Right Thing and School Daze. It also can be compared to Boyz N The Hood, another excellent hood film by John Singleton.
I believe because of Spike Lee films and works of John Singleton is the reason why Juice has slipped through the cracks. It has a following, but because of strong critical acclaim surrounding the other pictures and this one just having mixed reviews is the reason why this isn't remembered as well as the other films.
The moral of Juice is great about a psychological change one person can go through in a matter of time, the message about gun violence, and strong friendships being tested. However - this is taken in a more clichéd manner than any other hood film I've seen. We don't know a whole lot about the characters, and we don't know about they're raised. We don't get the parental backstory which is what Boyz N The Hood was cluttered with.
I'm recommending Juice for its morals, its sense of realism, and its subject matter. However, the delivery is a little askew, and the four boys aren't developed as well as they could be. This is still one more realistic hood film that many should make time to see, but this film only reaches the level of average to decent while all of Singleton's films surpassed the above average mark.
Starring: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins, Khalil Kain, Samuel L. Jackson. Directed by: Ernest R. Dickerson.