42. Juice (1992)
Director: Ernest Dickerson
Stars: Tupac Shakur, Omar Epps, Khalil Kain, Jermaine Hopkins
All "2Pac was a really good actor" talk starts with director, and Spike Lee protégé, Ernest Dickerson's underrated urban tragedy Juice. As the unstable loose cannon Bishop, Mr. Shakur hints at a Travis Bickle-like psychosis while forging a convincingly real friendship with his equally talented co-stars, namely a young Omar Epps.
The script, co-written by Dickerson, is also top-notch. Bishop and his boys watch James Cagney's gangster-ific White Heat and get inspired to do some crime; Bishop, the craziest of the bunch, buys a gun and orchestrates a half-assed bodega robbery. Which, in true cinematic form, goes awfully bad, and that's when bonds snap and blood spills.
With a superior, all-hip-hop soundtrack as its score, and arguably cinema's all-time best DJ battle sequence, Juice stands out amongst the hood-centric movies of the 1990s. On any given day, we might actually prefer it over Boyz N Da Hood. —MB