In the black neighborhoods of Harlem, Compton, and points in between, juice equals respect, which equals power. And one sure way for a 16-year-old guy to get it is to commit two cold-blooded murders within five minutes — even if one of the victims is a childhood friend. That kind of violence and street thinking flows freely through Juice; unfortunately, the movie is bogged down by stilted dialogue and an uninteresting story.
In his writing and directing debut, Ernest R. Dickerson, who is also Spike Lee’s longtime cinematographer, pulls strong performances from his young cast. Tupac Shakur is absolutely chilling as the troubled, diabolical killer, and on a small screen in a darkened room, his presence looms as frightening and disturbing as any villain you’ll see this year. A pulsating rap soundtrack and some decent camera work from Larry Banks are also pluses. But Juice ends up being soured by its premise that violence is the best, and maybe the only, way to make things happen.