Bil’s rating (out of 5): BB. USA, 1993. Columbia Pictures Corporation, New Deal Productions, Nickel. Screenplay by John Singleton. Cinematography by Peter Lyons Collister. Produced by Steve Nicolaides, John Singleton. Music by Stanley Clarke. Production Design by Keith Brian Burns. Costume Design by Darryle Johnson. Film Editing by Bruce Cannon. Academy Awards 1993. Golden Globe Awards 1993.
John Singleton made history by becoming, at the tender young age of 24, the youngest nominee for the Best Director Oscar for his debut feature Boyz N The Hood and the first African-American to be recognized in that category (he remained the only one until Lee Daniels scored a nomination for Precious in 2009). The success of that film surely meant that whatever Singleton followed it up with would be met with incredible scrutiny, the kind of attention that would almost guarantee disappointment simply by the weight of expectation placed upon it. That said, however, there’s no way that even a newcomer could have passed off Poetic Justice as even a reasonably good film, as it’s a mess no matter how much you were hoping for from Singleton’s sophomore effort: badly directed, poorly scripted and underperformed by lead star Janet Jackson. She plays a young woman who, as a teenager, witnessed the murder of her boyfriend in a drive-in parking lot, and some years later finds herself still feeling the after effects of the shock. She has abandoned all thoughts of college, opting instead to work as a hairdresser, while on the side writing poetry that we hear, very pretentiously, as narration. Now that the amorous advances of an earnest mail carrier (Tupac Shakur) have entered her life, she chooses to ignore the possibilities of love as well. Jackson is awkward in her first major acting role, sharing very little chemistry with her co-star, while Singleton’s smooth ability to combine societal criticism with riveting drama that served him so well his first time behind the camera has here been replaced with hackneyed proselytizing and contrived dramatic situations. Look for a welcome appearance by the always wonderful Regina King.