Juice is a very much a product of its time. Focusing on the lives led by four young black men from Harlem, its main attraction is Tupac Shakur. Filmed four years before he was shot dead, the film acts as chilling homage to the very real dangers faced by the people the cast portray. The title refers to the power and happiness the men hope to achieve but such aspirations soon give way to a more chilling reality.
The social realism that weaves itself through Juice is gritty buts jars with the oddly inspirational aspirations of Q (Omar Epps) who longs for a DJing career. The weird fusion of jubilant music scenes (hosted, may we add, by Queen Latifah) and the increasingly gory homicidal nature of Q’s best friend Bishop (Shakur) makes for disjointed viewing. Whilst it succeeds in dampening the optimism shown by Q, Bishop’s ill-explained schizophrenic actions (bought on by a shop robbery gone wrong) jars with the rest of the film.
Delinquency abounds; the friends’ school avoidance and run-ins with the law are run of the mill stuff until Bishop’s increasing blood lust poses a threat to the once close-knit group. Although you’re never quite sure you’re really invited to the party, it makes for interesting viewing, especially when Bishop works his charm on the mother of a friend he recently murdered – at the funeral no less.
Juice is reminiscent of the work Spike Lee would go on to produce and, with Samuel L. Jackson’s reassuring presence, the film is well performed despite its erratic script. Although Juice fails to ooze the sophistication of its peers it provides an interesting social commentary of early 90’s inner city life.