• James Rutherford

'Juice': A Formidable Urban Thriller About Four Friends' Fateful Turn to Criminality


Movie poster for the film Juice starring Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps

Juice (1992) is a dynamic urban crime thriller starring Omar Epps as Q, a Harlem youth who runs roughshod through the neighborhood alongside his schoolmates Bishop (Tupac Shakur), Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) and Rahim (Khalil Kain). An aspiring disc jockey in his private time, Q and his friends regularly skip school, dawdle at the local arcade and pilfer records to boost Q's music career.


The storyline showcases the quartet's day-to-day movements on the streets of New York before Bishop makes a fateful decision to purchase a handgun. Undue pressure from the police as well as local gang members drives him to this rash decision—his goal being newfound street credibility for himself and his crew. He ultimately hatches an illicit plan to stick up a local corner store, though he selects the same evening that Q is scheduled to participate in a deejay competition at a local club. Q's quandary and the ramifications of the eventual holdup lay the groundwork for a fierce tale of recrimination and jeopardy.


Co-written and directed by filmmaker Ernest Dickerson (cinematography credits including Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Malcolm X), Juice is a fierce tale of urban criminality. In one of his scant feature film performances, Shakur is dazzling as the increasingly unbridled Bishop, while Epps holds his own as the story's principled centerpiece. A tense and calamitous depiction of morality and toxic machismo, it's one of the finer products of the new urban drama era of the 1990s.

 

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