Poetic Justice (1993)

(On Cable TV, March 2015)  For a concentrated dose of nineties ghetto-Los Angeles atmosphere, Poetic Justice is a blast from the past.  Starring none other than Janet Jackson (in an iconic performance) and Tupac Shakur (in a pretty good dramatic role), Poetic Justice plays with an unusual structure that marries ghetto drama with a road trip from Los Angeles to Oakland with numerous episodes along the way.  There’s a blend of genres and influences that’s hard to describe as romance clashes with comedy (the drive-in film excerpt is hilarious) and straight-up drama.  Writer/director John Singleton has made an unusual film here, and it’s that lack of formula that makes it work even more than twenty years later.  Part of the film’s eccentricity can be found in the small role given to Maya Angelou (whose poetry makes up a chunk of the film’s narration), but also in an unusually romantic role given to Shakur, who more than honorably performs.  The ending could have been a bit stronger, and more continuity in the episodes would have been appreciated, but this is definitely what Singleton wanted to show on-screen, and the off-beat nature of the result speaks for itself.

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