Plot: What’s it about?
On the streets of Harlem, you need respect and power to survive, which is what the people there call juice. When it comes to getting the juice, there are various ways to do so, but usually the more violent means are the most effective. This movie follows four young men as they try to make it on the streets and learn that when the juice is involved, some people will stop at nothing to attain it. Q (Omar Epps) wants to become a music whiz on the turntables and his friends Raheem (Khalil Kain) and Steel (Jermaine Hopkins) have plans too, but their friend Bishop (Tupac Shakur) decides to control what happens to them all. After they learn that one of their friends from the past was murdered, Bishop drills them into thinking they’re not respected and that to stay alive, they need to change that fact. So he leads them into robbing a local store, but things spiral out of control when Bishop shoots the clerk. Soon after, these four friends enter into a string of events that will change their lives forever, as Bishop decides that no matter what it takes, he wants the juice.
In the realm of DVD, Paramount has become a solid friend to the format, but still seems to be a little hesitant at times. As time has passed, we can usually expect very good transfers and a lot of good remixed audio tracks, but they still lack the supplement support most of the other studios have adopted. This disc is a prime example of that idea, as Juice sports a new anamorphic transfer and an active Dolby Digital 5.1 track, but has no supplements of any kind, not even a theatrical trailer. Now I know the movie is what counts more than bonus features, but with a price tag of $30, Paramount’s discs need to either contain some form of bonus goodies or get a lower price tier. When the other studios offer value packed disc at $5-10 cheaper, Paramount needs to step up to the plate and try to keep up. As for this movie, Juice is another urban film that looks at the environment of some African-American men and the issues that face them. This is a solid film in the end, but with movies like Menace II Society, Dead Presidents, and Boyz N The Hood, this one remains a couple steps down the food chain. So if you’re interested in the genre, then by all means give this one a rent, but I think a purchase is for hard-core fans only.
This film was Ernest R. Dickerson’s debut as a feature film director, but he had plenty of experience in cinema before this production ever began. Dickerson worked as a cinematographer for a long time, including a lengthy stint with Spike Lee, in which some of Lee’s best efforts were created. So Dickerson had a sense of visual dynamics and style prior to his debut, which I think served him well in this case. I think Dickerson was more effective in his work as a cinematographer, but he delivers a solid turn here as director also. Plus, I will cut the guy some slack since he was the cinematographer for Krush Groove, ok? Other films directed by Dickerson include Demon Knight, Ambushed, Futuresport, Surviving The Game, and Bulletproof. The cast here is pretty good and has some solid names, including Tupac Shakur (Above The Rim, Poetic Justice), Cindy Herron (Batman Forever), Omar Epps (Higher Learning, Love & Basketball), Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Fresh), Jermaine Hopkins (Lean On Me, How To Be A Player), and Queen Latifah (House Party 2, Set It Off).
Video: How does it look?
Juice is presented in a 1.85:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer. This film was made in 1992 and as such, I expected a crisp and sharp transfer, but I was a little let down here. The print used looks pretty good and is very clean, but I saw a little too much grain in some darker scenes, which was not good. I was not pleased with the black levels at all here, as they seemed too light and that lowers the sharpness too much. The colors look solid though and I saw no compression errors, but this just doesn’t measure up in the end. This is a watchable transfer, but given the young age of the film, it should look much better than this.
Audio: How does it sound?
As you’d expect from a film of this nature, the included Dolby Digital 5.1 track is well used, especially by the bass heavy soundtrack. The surrounds are put to very good use and while the soundtrack seems to dominate, the more intense audio scenes also allow for some muscle flexing from the speakers. Perhaps not as much as I would have liked, but enough to provide for an active experience, so no real complaints here. The dialogue is also well presented, vocals come off as smooth and crisp, with no volume flaws. This disc also includes a 2.0 surround track and English subtitles, just in case you’ll need them.
Supplements: What are the extras?
This disc includes no bonus materials.