Poetic Justice (1993) Poster

User Reviews

Review this title
40 Reviews
Sort by:
Filter by Rating:
An overlooked, intelligently produced and directed film.
frank5631 December 1999
I applaud John Singleton for being brave enough to film "Poetic Justice" -- it's a real triumph in presenting a story that looks beyond Hollywood's usual stereotypes of urban youth. If you are looking for a typical gang-bangin' shoot em up angry urban film...look elsewhere, because that genre is miles away from Singleton's storytelling. This film has precisely what black audiences say they are looking for - depth, real characters with a number of real layers....and yet people say they cannot get into this film. I say watch it and simply feel the messages being conveyed through the hearts of the characters. Tupac Shakur's performance saddens my heart....because he had so much potential as an actor as proven with his performance here. I was fortunate enough to actually meet and compliment him on this performance, which is at turns skillful and all his own. He had that quality that film actors envy in that the camera loved him. Janet Jackson gives a skilled performance as well, and the two have a natural chemistry that works here. This film is worth watching...it's one of my favorites.
47 out of 50 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A John Singleton movie that's a lot better than reviews would suggest.
macnjnc21 May 1999
Poetic Justice is the type of film that will sneak up on you. Some parts of the movie are a little slow, but as a whole the movie is very good. Director Singleton is able to bring a certain mood to this film; wavering between dark, funny and compassionate. Justice (Janet Jackson) is a directionless and lost female who expresses her wants and sorrows through poetry. Because of deaths in her family she is alone.

She reluctantly agrees to go on a mail trip with a friend (Regina King) and her male comrads. Little does she know that she would find her diamond in the rough in Lucky (Shakur). Although Lucky has a very hard exterior, Justice; through many trails and tribulations locates the good in him. It turns out that they (Justice and Lucky) are just what each other needs. Some may not be able to relate to this film, but if you can chances are you will really like the movie. This movie was not really made for mainstream audiences, just for certain people. I am one who was taken in by it, and it is one of my favorites. Great movie which probably appeals more to demographically urban viewers. Regina King and Joe Torry do a good job of providing support to the lead actors throughout.
26 out of 29 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Justice for all
StevePulaski27 September 2011
After making the effective tear-jerker Boyz N The Hood, John Singleton returns to the field of film with Poetic Justice. While this one is significantly different from that masterpiece, it still has its perks and a solid message to add to its formula of an urban-drama. It is the second film in what Singleton has branded his "Hood trilogy," but yet, it is definitely the weakest of them all.

The plot: Justice (Jackson) is a young woman who lives in South Central, Los Angeles, and is still grieving over the loss of her boyfriend who was murdered during a silly confrontation. Justice writes numerous poems, and narrates them throughout the film. The actual poem were written by writer Maya Angelou, but the authenticity of the writing is the least of our concerns.

Justice works as a hairstylist, and one day, a mailman named Lucky (Shakur) waltzes in one day trying to flirt with several women, when Justice and her friend play a mean joke on him. Karma has its way of reuniting the mailman and the stylist when Justice's friend Iesha (King) forces her to come along on a trip to Oakland with her boyfriend Chicago (Torry) and his coworker Lucky. Justice needs to go for a hair show, so reluctantly agrees to hitch a ride in Lucky's mail-truck.

From then on, the film plays like a buddy road-trip film lacking the buddies. These characters must tolerate each other to survive the trip, but social and emotional conflicts continue to get in their way. Some of these situations feel genuine, but others feel contrived and meant to happen only so the film can advance.

Poetic Justice is very distant from its predecessor, with the only similarities being the setting and the fact that Lucky's uncle, seen in the end of the film, looks a lot like Laurence Fishburne's character in Boyz N The Hood. I can't quite figure out why this one is inferior to them. Maybe it's because the characters aren't as well developed and dripping with charisma, maybe because each one of the characters can be bitter and selfish at points in the film struggling socially, or maybe it's just because.

In Boyz N The Hood, Cuba Gooding Jr. was extremely developed to the point of almost going overboard. In Baby Boy, Omar Gooding was extremely developed. But in Poetic Justice, about a chunk of Janet Jackson's personality is almost snatched away. Same with the ending being a little perplexing and open for explanation.

But this can all be overlooked by two things; the writing and the acting. John Singleton manages to squeeze the premise dry in terms of character dialog. It feels like real discussions being had by real human beings. And Tupac Shakur's acting talents are definitely the strongest point in the film.

Poetic Justice has three meanings when I look at it. It describes redemption for one's previous actions, the character herself in the film, and what the slick writing achieves in this picture.

Starring: Janet Jackson, Tupac Shakur, Regina King, Joe Torry, Tyra Ferrell. Directed by: John Singleton.
15 out of 16 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tupac Shakur's all too brief career
lee_eisenberg18 February 2019
John Singleton's "Poetic Justice" might be of interest nowadays for the presence of Tupac Shakur, who was shot dead three years after the release. But more than that, it's a soft, positive look at relationships in South Central. Janet Jackson plays the title character, who accompanies some friends to Oakland. While the movie does have some intense scenes, the poetry narration - hence the title - moves everything along.

Released the year after the Rodney King riots, it shows the desperate situation in which large numbers of people in South Central live, making efforts to get by without trouble (no easy task). These are complex characters, each with something to add. I recommend it.
9 out of 9 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Worth a look!
nadia-3111 November 2004
I read the other review and simply had to comment on it. This was a great movie. Perhaps not filled with action. But it takes the poetic point of view and happily surprises you. It's in my DVD - shelf at home. Janet is showing a great acting and so is Tupac. My boyfriend weren't that crazy about it, so I've come to realize that it take a special kind of person to want to see and understand the movie at it's fullest. Since i write poetry in my spare time maybe that explains my passion about this movie. In all, I think you should rent it if the review at the back cover tempt you, it's pretty much what you get.
18 out of 20 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
not bad at all...
whoTheFuqRyou28 June 2004
Poetic Justice is an urban film but within this catgory it stands out from alot of them in its own way. The movie uses some very interesting elements that I was familiar with and like most urban films they use realistic characters. The camerawork is nothing new but some of it is really good to look at. Janet Jackson is good as the somewhat uptight poet/hairdresser who is mourning the loss of her lover while on a night out with him as is Tupac in a rather different role from the ones he has in Juice, Bullet and Above The Rim. Not only is the role different but as a man it's impossible to not relate to him as you see his struggles in his life including one powerful scene in which he catches his baby's mother smokin' crack and having other men in his daughter's presence - I thought this worked great because I know how I'd feel if I had a kid and my baby's mother is bringing other men around my kid: I wouldn't be too happy. The road trip is where you begin to see all the characters(Pac Shakur, Janet Jackson, Regina King and Joe Torry) develop and John Singleton wastes little time doing that during that time...

Poetic Justice is a movie deserving alot more credit than it's getting but too bad there are people out there with stupid stereotypical assumptions so idiotic it can get someone angry

19 out of 22 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
A good street romance
DunnDeeDaGreat4 November 2001
Poetic Justice is a great movie. It's not the follow up that wasn't as strong as it should have been for someone of Singelton calibar but it's still a good movie. Jackson and Shakur made their mark in this movie and keeps your attention. Check this out with Sineglton's other films in the ghetto trilogy, Boyz N The Hood &Baby Boy.
15 out of 17 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
good flick!
tmanbball29 January 2011
the only reason i don't rate this film higher is because i always thought it was a tad long. john singleton, i love your work! like spike lee ( with a lot of his films) and ice cube (with 'friday' and 'barbershop') you've caught a time and place that's only clear to those that have lived it, or at least have knowledge of its existence. all of you capture black young'uns (east and west coasts) as they were lived during the times depicted in the films. wonderful stuff! great acting, solid story, everything is more heartfelt than not, it's why i go to the movies! i hope u and spike and ice cube and tyler perry (silly as he can b!) and the whole slew of other black filmmakers continue for many years to come. i love your work, your honesty and your sincerity. this is good movie-making, maya angelou's poetry is a plus and a bonus!!!
10 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An underrated gem
eingelas22 May 2019
I don't know why everyone was so hard on Janet Jackson's acting. Her performance was great. This is a classic film. Gritty, sweet, and hilarious at the same time. RIP to John Singleton. He was a true legend.
6 out of 6 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Tupac greatest performance
QDMan520 April 2002
This is one of the greatest movies. the greatest romance movie to. Tupac performance is so great. he proves he can do different roles every time he acts. this is probably john singletons 2nd best film next to boys n tha hood of course. Tupac just gives a thug from the streets performance to a romantic performance. the movie is fun to watch especially when tupac and janet get in to arguments.
10 out of 12 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
One of the truly excellent films of the 1990's!
josh-hall12 May 2005
I saw this film after becoming addicted to 'Boyz n the hood'and 'Higher learning', I think John Singleton is one of the greatest filmmakers working today and Poetic Justice is a great example of a truly dedicated and talented filmmaker. The story starts off with Justice (played brilliantly by Janet Jackson, what a surprise)who witnesses the slaying of her boyfriend at a movie, justice becomes very depressed with life and feels nothing but loneliness. She expresses this by writing poems in a notebook to reveal her pain for her lost love and for the pain of living in America's South central l.a district. Lucky (again played greatly by Tupac Shakur in i feel his most personal and greatest role from 'Juice' right up to 'Gang Related')is a postman with nothing to look forward for in his life except to look after his daughter and a dream of rapping his pain for the hood. Together they go on a road trip with two other friends and learn on how to live again and to find their way in life. The performances are great, Singletons direction is wonderful. If your a fan of other 'hood' movies than this you might find a little different from the others. But nonetheless a deep hearted gem. 9/10
16 out of 21 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not as bad as some think
cupcake-620 April 1999
Okay, I'll be the first to admit that this is nowhere near as good as Boyz in the Hood, however, it's not as bad as some make it out to be. The acting is somewhat lacking, but the story as a whole is moving. If you're a diehard Singleton fan, or are just in the mood for a pretty decent movie, go for it, you've got nothing to lose.
11 out of 15 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Not my taste but worth seeing
vchimpanzee11 February 2014
I am a white man over the age of 50, so this film wasn't really made for me. That doesn't mean there wasn't anything here, and I could see that this was a quality production.

This film had occasional laughs, which was good because it could get very depressing at times.

I really liked the family reunion, where the movie's main characters pretended to be part of the family just to get some free food and found themselves being accepted rather than questioned. I got the impression they might come back someday just because they liked being with these people. This is also where Maya Angelou delivered an elegant performance. Yes, this film was worthy of her, and she added something to it.

As for her poetry, not my style. Janet Jackson did a great job reading it offscreen, but again, not by sort of thing. For many people, this will be a wonderful part of the movie.

One of my favorite parts of the film was the scene at the gas station/convenience store, one of the few places I heard recorded music that appealed to me (Tammy Wynette's "Stand by Your Man").

Actually, a lot of the background music was smooth jazz with violins or synthesizers that pass for violins. It was actually kind of pleasant compared to the rap and other styles the main characters liked.

Family was important here. Although Jackson's character didn't seem to have anyone except her cat, at least she had friends and a job. I did like the cat and its friends, in the one scene.

Chicago was probably my favorite character. He was funny and likable, most of the time.

Janet Jackson has a nice smile and she can have a nice personality when it is called for. Sometimes here, she had to be depressed or angry. That's fine. She did it well.

And this is my third or fourth time seeing the talents of 2Pac, who was taken away too soon. Although it was not necessarily his finest work, he did a good job here.

I mostly know Regina King from "227". Has it really been that long? She was so much older even here, but she did a good job.

Beautiful mountains and magnificent bridges added to the scenery. Some scenes, and not necessarily pleasant ones, let us enjoy these longer.

These people live hard lives and have tragedy all around them. That's why this is not an easy movie to watch. But having family around means a lot.

It may not be for you, but if you need to get outside your comfort zone, this will be a worthwhile experience.
8 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Such a great movie
zmullen-381896 February 2021
This is one of my favorite movies. I'm not really into romance movies but I love this one. It's so rewatchable and so enjoyable. It has a great cast and story. I don't really understand the low rating and people who don't like it. Love this movie and always will
2 out of 2 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
great film... with one small exception
crisrabb30 October 1999
Poetic justice was a good film, and well acted, with one exception. To me, Janet Jackson simply wasn't convincing in her role. Through no fault of her own. I believe the problem was that she is too big an entertainment personality to be able to play anyone besides herself. It's difficult for the audience to get past the fact that it's "Janet Jackson" on the screen and see the character. Similar to when Madonna tried to portray Evita Peron. A strong character, and a good story, but you couldn't help seeing "Madonna" every time you look at the screen. I realize big names are intended to boost box office sales, and I respect that too. After all, show business is BUSINESS. Still, I think it would be good if casting directors would hire good actors instead of known celebrities and respect the integrity of the writing, as well as the audience.
6 out of 10 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
So Easy To Relate To This Film
tequieroselena18 September 2001
Now, honestly, if you werent born and raised in L.A. you probably wouldn't be able to relate to this. However, I was born and raised in L.A., and all of the characters speech, slang, and laid-backness reminds me so much of people I know, including myself. It especially reminds me of being a teenager in high school, and all the boy drama and fights where all we did was swear at each other. It's very easy for me to identify with, and I think as long as you're from Los Angeles, you should be able to relate to this film.
13 out of 27 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Good try but scrappy, over use of swearing and a really badly miscast Jackson foil it
bob the moo21 July 2002
Justice is in love, sadly in Compton things happen and her boyfriend Markell is killed at a drive in. Since then she has worn black and stayed away from men and just written her poems. However when she is taken on a road trip by her friend Iesha she finds she has been set up with her boyfriend's friend Lucky. At first the two don't get on but over the course of the trip the four fight, make up and learn.

Singleton was always going o have a hard time with that `difficult second film' but at least he had honourable intentions. This sees him step away from the easy ghetto flick and goes for something deeper. And it is a good try but it's deeply flawed. The overuse of swearing may be necessary and realistic but it is overdone here and spoils many scenes – he could have toned it down a bit and kept realism. Also the plot is very broken down – we have a trip that never seems to get dark but has too much in it for just one day surely? Also each stop is supposed to show us another aspect of `the black experience' other than the protagonists ghetto existence. However this doesn't work as it makes the film feel aimless and episodic.

The main failing is sadly, Janet Jackson. On one hand it's not her fault – the poems are those of a more mature woman (Angelou – who plays aunt June) and they don't fit with her. The clearest example of this is watching her stare into space, rubbing her chest as she `writes' `Phenomenal Woman'. But also she is really poor – she doesn't have the range to make the character believable and the rest of this falls as a result. Continuing the musical theme Tupac is a talent sadly missed. He shines here and, although the swearing etc isn't hard for him he does the more emotional stuff much, much better than Jackson. I can't sing his praises enough – for me he made this watchable when I was getting bored of it. Other musicians include Tone Loc and Q-Tip…..was this some sort of label push? Regina King is poor – her constant talking like a Jerry Springer guest etc is really tiresome and her `partner' Torry is just as bad – whose idea was it to have he constantly brushing his hair for no reason? Was it the only way we would get that he's vain?

I will give credit to Singleton for trying. I especially liked the way he brings the `black urban experience' into contrast with the white idea of cities in movies in the first 5 minutes. We open with shots of a lit up and pretty cityscape of LA with Gerswin-esque music playing a la Woody Allen's Manhattan. However this image of how Allen views his city is revealed to be a movie in a drive through in Compton – this, he's saying, is the black reality. A very clever start I thought (and props for Billy Zane and Lori Petty for agreeing to be in yet another bad movie – even if it's a fake one!)

Overall I wanted to like this as it was a brave step for Singleton. However the plot needed more work – and the whole ` black experience' stops could have been removed or toned down to just be `stops' without the agenda. However the casting of Jackson sounded time on this project – she really can't even get near the ability needed for this role – with a better actress, who knows?
6 out of 11 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
It's was great!
Def_Jam1 September 1999
It really gave me insight of the world. Although I didn't understand some of the poems though. But Tupac wasn't acting. He describes real thug life, where people really die in front of your face. Too bad Tupac is dead now. R.I.P homeboy.
4 out of 7 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Self-conscious, and so cynical as to be self-damning
moonspinner5526 June 2001
Rarely have I seen a modern movie about romance that was so angry and bitter--and all without purpose. The Maya Angelou poetry seems out-of-place in a story about a beautician's rocky courtship with a troubled postman in South Central L. A., and yet it practically sounds like music next to all the "F--- you"'s and N-words. Some may argue this constant foul language is "realistic", but the majority of the film is unconvincing in its relationships (which are puzzling, to say the least). Janet Jackson has a sweet smile, and looks attractive in her corn-rows and floppy hats, but the mercurial tone of the picture is up and down, back and forth, and finally we just give up on 'Justice' and all her scowling friends. And what about that ratty beginning at the drive-in? *1/2 from ****
10 out of 25 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poetically good!
Angel-9325 April 1999
Very good, and upbeat for the times. LOVE TUPAC!!!!!!!! (WES SIDE) Janet and Regina are very good actresses, great poems by Maya Angelou. Sexy, dark, and dramatic.
3 out of 5 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Sooooooooooooooooo boring !!
DIE HARD-415 June 1999
"Poetic Justice" is great if you need a good nights sleep. This movie is guaranteed to put you asleep. The only two things about this film that are not worthless, are actors Janet Jackson and Tupac Shakur, who are both actually quite good, not to say great.
5 out of 13 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Poetically Wholesome Journey of Self Discovery
elicopperman18 December 2021
Aspiring poets are not often looked upon in film, but when they are, they tend to be young adults hoping for something more in their lives. In the case of the late John Singleton's Poetic Justice, starring Janet Jackson and Tupac Shukar, it focuses on a young hairdresser who goes on a road trip from South Central Los Angeles to Oakland with her friend and a mail truck driver. Although the film wasn't the movie wasn't the biggest hit with critics back in its original 1993 release, it has garnished enough cultural status to be admired as a romantically enduring drama within the coming of age genre.

The main storyline follows a young woman named Justice who works as a hairdresser in South Central LA following the murder of her former boyfriend Markell. Her only way to cope with such a horrific tragedy is through beautiful poetry, which is one of the biggest plot notes throughout the movie. Every now and then, we'll hear Jackson narrating one of Justice's poems that is in lieu of a specific scene or emotion. It all highlights the growth of Justice as the film goes on, especially when she pursues a convention in Oakland, albeit via transportation in a mail truck driven by a narrow minded postal worker named Lucky. During this road trip, her friend Iesha and her rough boyfriend Chicago get into constant back and forth love related arguments and fights, which causes some necessary tension between the two leads. In a way, Poetic Justice is a laid back road picture disguised as a journey of self discovery, solely in how Justice and Lucky grow into trusting each other overtime. By taking its time to get to the destination, it allows the viewers to relate to its characters sincerely.

Perhaps the best moments throughout the film are where the characters connect as a family, especially since none of them have any of their own. Whether it'd be with their close minded co-workers or a ginormous African-American family reunion that they're not even related to, Justice, Lucky, Iesha and Chicago will have learned about one another through thick and thin in spite of their vast differences. Unfortunately for every laugh they share, there will be drama and bloodshed, such is the case when trivial molehills are blown up into mountains. Jackson and Shakur have excellent chemistry with one another, with a lot of their scenes emphasizing their insecurities with trust and care for other people. Even when their scenes jumble back and forth with whatever petty drama Regina King and Joe Torry get themselves into as Iesha and Chicago, they still serve as healthy reminders to really understand someone before you judge them blindly. As far as the romance angle goes in this quiet gentle flick, there's a lot to take away from the two leads, no matter how violent some scenes may get.

In addition, the poetry within the film was composed by poetic icon Maya Angelou, who even appears in the roadside family reunion sequence. With a literary legend like Angelou creating the work of Justice, one can only imagine how much of a voice the filmmakers leant in bringing such beautiful work from the heart to the big screen. Not to mention, the Oscar nominated musical number Again, performed by Jackson herself, perfectly encapsulates the themes explored in the feature, including trying to move on, coping with a wound, and trusting new people. Unlike most of the other songs featured in the film outside of Lucky's own rap work, this number has a lot to do with the message this film has been doing its best to share to the world ever since its release. Perhaps it might not be the film's best strength in sound as much as Stanley Clarke's soothing score, which feels as melodious as it does heart wrenching. Proving how much the contributions from different artists means to one motion picture event, Singleton, Jackson and the crew knew how to bring justice to the world of cinema.

While maybe not being quite as disciplined as it could have been, Poetic Justice stands as a beautifully gentle road film that works in showcasing the benefits of discovering yourself and someone else outside of your own mindset. In a day and age where people are losing their grip on others based on delusions of paranoia and world news, flicks like these are worth the price of admission. If you're a fan of John Singleton's work or want to see a landmark in poetic self discovery, then give this one a go. It will move you, it will hurt you, it may even shock you, but it will cease to bore you.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
This is an absolute must see movie and an American cinematic classic
kevin_robbins7 December 2021
Poetic Justice (1993) is a movie in my DVD collection that I recently rewatched on Tubi. The storyline follows a woman whose boyfriend was killed and she's struggling to move on. Her girlfriend invites her to join her and her boyfriend on a weekend trip that includes the boyfriend's best friend. At first the couple get along while the girlfriend and best friend fight like cats and dogs, then it becomes vice versa. A rollercoaster of scenarios and circumstances ensue where they hope to finish their trip without killing each other.

This movie is directed by John Singleton (Boyz N the Hood) and stars Janet Jackson (Nutty Professor II), Tupac (Juice), Joe Torry (Tales from the Hood), Regina King (The Watchmen) and Khandi Alexander (Scandal).

The Billy Zane and Lori Petty drive-in opening movie always makes me laugh. It was also awesome seeing Q-Tip and Tone Loc in this movie. The storyline itself is very smart and well told and paced. The soundtrack and poetry is excellent as is the writing and dialogue. The cast delivers perfect performances and scenarios and circumstances setup a rewarding conclusion.

Overall, this is an absolute must see movie and an American cinematic classic. I would strongly recommend this movie and score it an easy 10/10.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Watching it the second time nearly 30 years later made all the difference
letiamj-950885 November 2021
I remember during my family reunion we all went to the crowded movie theater to see this on opening night. We were all disappointed.

Now 28 years later, I can appreciate this movie much more.

John Singleton had a way of capturing the heart, creativity, culture, love and struggle of black people that still resonates today. You can see how his movies set the stage for other classics such as Jason's Lyric, The Wood, Friday.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
Loved It!!
momjessicaandjordan27 July 2021
All in All, Poetic Justice is a realistic hood love drama story. The film also serves as a reminder that you can let your guard down and fall in love with a rapping mailman while still maintaining what makes you yourself. Also one thing I will give John Singleton credit is that he really knew how to bring the acting down to the rappers. Tupac's performance was just as you expected from Tupac just like all of the other iconic movies he was in like Juice and Above the Rim. I mean all of those movies and even in Poetic Justice, he's playing a hood dude so go figure what do you expect lol. All jokes aside his delivery and emotional range really surprised me and I don't mean delivery as in delivering mail packages. It's not the best Tupac performance I've ever seen but it will still do. Also Janet Jackson was great too forgot to mention that. I'll recommend this movie if you like romantic movies or if you have a girlfriend and your in love and want to watch a movie like Poetic Justice, go for it.
0 out of 0 found this helpful. Was this review helpful? Sign in to vote.
An error has occured. Please try again.

See also

Awards | FAQ | User Ratings | External Reviews | Metacritic Reviews

Recently Viewed