21 July 2002 | bob the moo
Good try but scrappy, over use of swearing and a really badly miscast Jackson foil it
Justice is in love, sadly in Compton things happen and her boyfriend Markell is killed at a drive in. Since then she has worn black and stayed away from men and just written her poems. However when she is taken on a road trip by her friend Iesha she finds she has been set up with her boyfriend's friend Lucky. At first the two don't get on but over the course of the trip the four fight, make up and learn.
Singleton was always going o have a hard time with that `difficult second film' but at least he had honourable intentions. This sees him step away from the easy ghetto flick and goes for something deeper. And it is a good try but it's deeply flawed. The overuse of swearing may be necessary and realistic but it is overdone here and spoils many scenes he could have toned it down a bit and kept realism. Also the plot is very broken down we have a trip that never seems to get dark but has too much in it for just one day surely? Also each stop is supposed to show us another aspect of `the black experience' other than the protagonists ghetto existence. However this doesn't work as it makes the film feel aimless and episodic.
The main failing is sadly, Janet Jackson. On one hand it's not her fault the poems are those of a more mature woman (Angelou who plays aunt June) and they don't fit with her. The clearest example of this is watching her stare into space, rubbing her chest as she `writes' `Phenomenal Woman'. But also she is really poor she doesn't have the range to make the character believable and the rest of this falls as a result. Continuing the musical theme Tupac is a talent sadly missed. He shines here and, although the swearing etc isn't hard for him he does the more emotional stuff much, much better than Jackson. I can't sing his praises enough for me he made this watchable when I was getting bored of it. Other musicians include Tone Loc and Q-Tip
..was this some sort of label push? Regina King is poor her constant talking like a Jerry Springer guest etc is really tiresome and her `partner' Torry is just as bad whose idea was it to have he constantly brushing his hair for no reason? Was it the only way we would get that he's vain?
I will give credit to Singleton for trying. I especially liked the way he brings the `black urban experience' into contrast with the white idea of cities in movies in the first 5 minutes. We open with shots of a lit up and pretty cityscape of LA with Gerswin-esque music playing a la Woody Allen's Manhattan. However this image of how Allen views his city is revealed to be a movie in a drive through in Compton this, he's saying, is the black reality. A very clever start I thought (and props for Billy Zane and Lori Petty for agreeing to be in yet another bad movie even if it's a fake one!)
Overall I wanted to like this as it was a brave step for Singleton. However the plot needed more work and the whole ` black experience' stops could have been removed or toned down to just be `stops' without the agenda. However the casting of Jackson sounded time on this project she really can't even get near the ability needed for this role with a better actress, who knows?