Poetic Justice (1993)

R | 110 mins | Drama, Romance | 23 July 1993

Director:

John Singleton

Writer:

John Singleton

Cinematographer:

Peter Lyons Collister

Editor:

Bruce Cannon

Production Designer:

Keith Brian Burns

Production Company:

Columbia Pictures
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HISTORY

The film begins with the following title card: “Once upon a time in South Central L.A….”
       The 4 May 1991 HR announced a follow-up to writer-director John Singleton’s 1991 hit, Boyz N the Hood (see entry), for which he received two Academy Award nominations for Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Director. At that time, twenty-three-year-old Singleton was the youngest director, and the first African-American, to receive the “Best Director” nomination. After the success of Boyz N the Hood, Singleton signed a three-year contract with Columbia Pictures, and as of early May 1991, he was writing Poetic Justice with the goal of finishing by summer. Production was planned for the fall or spring of 1992. Production notes in AMPAS library files added that Singleton was inspired to write the screenplay after considering the impact of murder in the black male community, and the ways in which it affected girl friends and families. The script was reportedly based on actual events, and was started in Feb 1991. Singleton intended to write his own poetry for the film, but instead chose the poems of Maya Angelou, whose words influenced his own life.
       The 29 Jul--4 Aug 1993 Drama-Logue reported that Singleton had written the role of “Justice” with Janet Jackson in mind. After striking up a friendship with the singer, Singleton asked her opinion of his screenplay, and surprised her by offering her the lead role. According to the 25 Jul 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram, Singleton wanted Jackson to gain ten-pounds to change her appearance, and asked her to watch Italian neo-realist films ... More Less

The film begins with the following title card: “Once upon a time in South Central L.A….”
       The 4 May 1991 HR announced a follow-up to writer-director John Singleton’s 1991 hit, Boyz N the Hood (see entry), for which he received two Academy Award nominations for Screenplay Written Directly for the Screen, and Director. At that time, twenty-three-year-old Singleton was the youngest director, and the first African-American, to receive the “Best Director” nomination. After the success of Boyz N the Hood, Singleton signed a three-year contract with Columbia Pictures, and as of early May 1991, he was writing Poetic Justice with the goal of finishing by summer. Production was planned for the fall or spring of 1992. Production notes in AMPAS library files added that Singleton was inspired to write the screenplay after considering the impact of murder in the black male community, and the ways in which it affected girl friends and families. The script was reportedly based on actual events, and was started in Feb 1991. Singleton intended to write his own poetry for the film, but instead chose the poems of Maya Angelou, whose words influenced his own life.
       The 29 Jul--4 Aug 1993 Drama-Logue reported that Singleton had written the role of “Justice” with Janet Jackson in mind. After striking up a friendship with the singer, Singleton asked her opinion of his screenplay, and surprised her by offering her the lead role. According to the 25 Jul 1993 Long Beach Press-Telegram, Singleton wanted Jackson to gain ten-pounds to change her appearance, and asked her to watch Italian neo-realist films “to convince her that she didn’t have to be glamorous.” Jackson’s casting was announced the 17 Mar 1992 DV.
       Principal photography began on 14 Apr 1992, as listed on a 21 Apr 1992 HR production chart. Locations included the streets of South Central Los Angeles, CA, and the cities of Cambria, San Mateo, and Oakland, CA.
       A news item in the 20 Jul 1993 LAT announced a $12 million budget.
       After unfavorable test screenings, the 7 Dec 1992 Time reported that Singleton was currently reshooting several scenes. According to the 15 Mar 1993 Var, the completed film was two hours and thirty minutes, but Singleton agreed to Columbia’s request to cut forty-five minutes.
       Poetic Justice screened at the 1993 Haugesund Norwegian Film Festival.
       A benefit premiere was held on 21 Jul 1993 at AMPAS in support of Singleton’s Dakar Foundation, which helped elementary school children, according to the 23 Jul 1993 LAT.
       The film was released on 23 Jul 1993 on 1,273 screens, and earned $11.7 million in box-office receipts, as reported in the 27 Jul 1993 LAT. However, the Universal City Cineplex Odeon theater delayed its screening until Wednesday, 28 Jul 1993, fearing opening weekend violence, according to the 25 Jul 1993 LAT. Fending off allegations of racism, the theater owners stated that they did not want to repeat the opening of Boyz N the Hood, in which eleven people were injured by multiple shootings in and around three Los Angeles theaters. Columbia Pictures offered to provide additional security for the opening weekend of Poetic Justice, but Cineplex Odeon would not reconsider. A statement by a theater representative, expressing the desire for an “upscale demographic,” angered Sandra Evers Manly of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and she called the comment “racist.” On 28 Jul 1993, HR announced that the Los Angeles City Council had passed a motion to condemn the Cineplex Odeon, and requested an investigation by the county District Attorney to determine if the theater was in violation of civil rights legislation. Cineplex Odeon’s president, Allen Karp, continued to argue that patron safety was the only factor in his decision.
       The 30 Jul 1993 DV reported five incidents of violence throughout the country related to Poetic Justice, including one murder in Las Vegas, NV, during the film’s opening weekend.
       The name of Last Poets Suliaman El Hadi and Omar Ben Hassan are misspelled onscreen as "Suliamen El Hadi" and "Omar Ben Hassen."
       End credits state: “Poetry by Maya Angelou: Alone; In a Time; Phenomenal Woman; A Kind of Love, Some Say; A Conceit.”
       Also acknowledged are: “Special Thanks to: Gordon Henderson; Moods Magazine; Rex Perry; Astarte; Dudley Products; Johnson Products; Joico Labs; Rene of Paris; Rusk; Sebastian International; Soft Sheen Products; Worlds of Curls,” and, “The Major League Baseball trademarks depicted in this motion picture were licensed by Major League Baseball Properties, Inc.; ‘Felix the Cat’ courtesy of Broadway Video Enterprises, Inc.; Oakland Mayor’s Film Office – Jeanie Rucker; Los Angeles Film and Video Permit Office; Hollywood Curl Beauty Salon; Kevin & Monet Donan; the people and businesses of South Central Los Angeles; ladies and gentlemen from L.A.; Black Cinema In Effect; Dealing A New Hand.”
More Less

SOURCE CITATIONS
SOURCE
DATE
PAGE
Daily Variety
3 Mar 1992.
---
Daily Variety
17 Mar 1992
p. 1, 31.
Daily Variety
20 Jul 1993.
---
Daily Variety
30 Jul 1993
p. 1, 23.
Drama-Logue
29 Jul-4 Aug 1993.
---
Hollywood Reporter
14 May 1991
p. 6, 16.
Hollywood Reporter
21 Jan 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
18 Feb 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
21 Apr 1992.
---
Hollywood Reporter
19 Jul 1993
p. 5, 13.
Hollywood Reporter
28 Jul 1993
p. 1, 18.
Long Beach Press-Telegram
25 Jul 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
20 Jul 1993.
---
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1993
p. 1.
Los Angeles Times
23 Jul 1993
Section E, p. 5.
Los Angeles Times
25 Jul 1993
Section A, p. 1, 25.
Los Angeles Times
27 Jul 1993
Section B, p. 1, 8.
New York Times
23 Jul 1993
p. 1.
Time
7 Dec 1992.
---
Variety
6 Apr 1992.
---
Variety
15 Mar 1993.
---
Variety
26 Jul 1993
pp. 28-29.
CAST
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
and
as Jessie
+
PRODUCTION CREDITS
NAME
PARENT COMPANY
PRODUCTION TEXTS
Columbia Pictures presents
A New Deal/Nickel production
NAME
CREDITED AS
CREDIT
DIRECTORS
Unit prod mgr
1st asst dir
2d asst dir
2d unit dir
2d 2d asst dir
DGA trainee
PRODUCERS
Assoc prod
WRITER
PHOTOGRAPHY
Dir of photog
1st asst cam
2d asst cam
Chief lighting tech
Asst chief lighting tech
Key grip
Dolly grip
Still photog
ART DIRECTORS
FILM EDITORS
1st asst film ed
Asst film ed
SET DECORATORS
Set dec
Prop master
Asst prop master
Const coord
COSTUMES
Cost des
Men`s ward
Women's ward
MUSIC
Mus consultant
SOUND
Supv sd ed
Supv sd ed
Sd ed
Asst sd ed
Prod mixer
Boom op
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Re-rec mixer
Supv ADR ed
VISUAL EFFECTS
Spec eff
Matte paintings
MAKEUP
Hairstylist
PRODUCTION MISC
Poetry by
Casting
Scr supv
Prod coord
Prod secy
Prod accountant
Asst to Mr. Nicolaides
Asst to Mr. Singleton
Asst to Mr. Singleton
Loc mgr
Asst loc mgr
Transportation capt
Transportation co-capt
Craft service
Casting assoc
Security to Mr. Singleton
Office prod asst
Office prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
Set prod asst
STAND INS
Stunt coord
COLOR PERSONNEL
Col timer
Col by
SOURCES
SONGS
“Rhapsody In Blue,” written by George Gershwin
“Between The Sheets,” written by O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper, performed by The Isley Brothers, courtesy of Sony Music, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Bonita Applebum,” written by John William Davis, Ali Shaheed Jones-Muhammad, O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper, performed by A Tribe Called Quest, courtesy of Jive Records
+
SONGS
“Rhapsody In Blue,” written by George Gershwin
“Between The Sheets,” written by O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper, performed by The Isley Brothers, courtesy of Sony Music, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Bonita Applebum,” written by John William Davis, Ali Shaheed Jones-Muhammad, O'Kelly Isley, Ronald Isley, Rudolph Isley, Ernie Isley, Marvin Isley and Chris Jasper, performed by A Tribe Called Quest, courtesy of Jive Records
“One In A Million,” written by Peter Phillips and Corey Penn, produced by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth for Mecca and The Soul Brother Productions, performed by Pete Rock & C.L. Smooth, courtesy of Elektra Records
“Call Me A Mack,” written by Tim Thomas, Ted Bishop and Usher Raymond, produced by Tim & Ted for Flapjack Productions, performed by Usher Raymond, courtesy of LaFace Records
“Waiting For You,” written by Derek Allen, co-produced by Raphael Wiggins and Derek “DOA” Allen, performed by Tony! Toni! Tone!, courtesy of PolyGram Records
“Smoking Sticks,” written by Artis Ivey, Jr. and Bryan Dobbs, produced by Bryan Dobbs "The Wino" & Andre "Priest" Jackson, performed by Coolio, courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
“Can A Corn,” written by Artis Ivey, Jr. and Bryan Dobbs, produced by Bryan Dobbs "The Wino" & Andre "Priest" Jackson, performed by Coolio, courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
“Sticky Fingers,” written by Artis Ivey, Jr. and Bryan Dobbs, produced by Bryan Dobbs "The Wino" & Andre "Priest" Jackson, performed by Coolio, courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
“Indo Smoke,” written by Rojai S. Trawick and Warren Griffin III, produced by Warren G., performed by Mista Grimm
“Felix The Wonderful Cat,” written by Winston Sharples
“Nite And Day,” written by Darryl Swann, Pamela La Sean Williams and Cardell Walker, produced by Darryl "D-Style" Swann, performed by Cultural Revolution, courtesy of New Deal Music, Inc.
“I've Been Waiting,” written by Tara Geter, Terri Robinson and Kevin Deane, produced by Kevin Deane, performed by Terri & Monica, courtesy of Epic Records
“Life Betta,” written by Sean Reveron, Julian Harker and Osagyefu Kennedy, produced by Olah, performed by Ruffneck, courtesy of New Deal Music, Inc.
“Never Dreamed You'd Leave In Summer,” written by Stevie Wonder and Syreeta Wright, performed by Stevie Wonder, courtesy of Motown Record Company, LP, by arrangement with PolyGram Special Markets
“Get It Up,” written by Prince Nelson, produced by Dallas Austin and Tim & Bob for Darp, Inc., performed by TLC, courtesy of LaFace Records
“Gangsta Bitch,” written by Apache and J. Davis
“Stand By Your Man,” written by Billy Sherrill and Tammy Wynette, performed by Tammy Wynette, courtesy of Epic Records, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Niggas Don't Give A Fuck,” written by Snoop Doggy Dogg, Kurrupt and That Nigga Dazz, produced by Dr. Dre, performed by The Dogg Pound, courtesy of Death Row Records/Interscope Records
“Poor Man's Poetry,” written by Naughty By Nature, produced by Naughty Boys for 118th Street Productions, performed by Naughty By Nature, courtesy of Tommy Boy Records
“Family Reunion,” written Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, performed by O'Jays, courtesy of Sony Music, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Niggers Are Scared Of Revolution,” written by Omar Ben Hassen [sic], performed by The Last Poets, courtesy of Celluloid Records, Ltd.
“I Wanna Be Your Man,” written by John Taylor, Everton Bonner, Sly Dunbar, Robbie Shakespear and Lloyd Willis, produced by Sly and Robbie, performed by Chaka Demus & Pliers, courtesy of Mango/Island Records, Inc.
“Well Alright,” written by Babyface, produced by Babyface, L.A. Reid and Daryl Simmons, performed by Babyface, courtesy of Epic Records
“Backstabbers,” written by Leon Huff, Gene McFadden and John Whitehead, performed by O'Jays, courtesy of Sony Music, by arrangement with Sony Music Licensing
“Again,” written by Janet Jackson, James Harris III and Terry Lewis, produced by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis and Janet Jackson, performed by Janet Jackson, courtesy of Virgin Records, Limited.
+
DETAILS
Alternate Title:
Poetic Justice: A Street Romance
Release Date:
23 July 1993
Premiere Information:
Los Angeles opening: 23 July 1993
New York opening: week of 23 July 1993
Copyright Claimant:
Columbia Pictures Industries, Inc.
Copyright Date:
23 July 1993
Copyright Number:
PA620155
Physical Properties:
Sound
Dolby Stereo ® in Selected Theatres
Color
Lenses
Filmed with Panavision® cameras & lenses
Duration(in mins):
110
MPAA Rating:
R
Country:
United States
Language:
English
PCA No:
32740
Passed by NBR:
No
SYNOPSIS

In South Central Los Angeles, California, Justice attends a drive-in movie with her boyfriend, Markell. Before going to the concession stand to get popcorn, Markell tells Justice that he loves her because of the poems she sent him while he was in jail. He returns to the car, saying that he saw two boys he quarreled with the week before. Suddenly, his rivals appear and shoot Markell in the head. In time, Justice continues writing poetry, and works as a beautician at Jessie’s Salon. Owner Jessie encourages her to start dating again, but when a postal carrier named “Lucky” comes into the salon and flirts, Justice turns him down. Leaving work, Lucky visits his young daughter, Keisha, at the home of his former girl friend, Angel. When he discovers that she continues to smoke crack cocaine, Lucky beats up Angel’s boyfriend, and takes Keisha home with him. Sometime later, Justice’s friend, Iesha, tells her she is going on a road trip with her postal worker boyfriend, “Chicago,” to take a mail truck to Oakland, California, and invites Justice to join them. When Justice declines and insults her friend’s choice in boyfriends, Iesha warns that Justice will end up as an “old maid.” Elsewhere, Lucky tells his mother he will be spending another weekend in Oakland, where he records rap songs in his cousin Kalil’s home studio. He also shares his plan to fight for Keisha’s custody. Justice prepares to attend a hair show in Oakland, but when her automobile fails to start, she telephones Iesha and asks for a ride. Justice is displeased to discover that ... +


In South Central Los Angeles, California, Justice attends a drive-in movie with her boyfriend, Markell. Before going to the concession stand to get popcorn, Markell tells Justice that he loves her because of the poems she sent him while he was in jail. He returns to the car, saying that he saw two boys he quarreled with the week before. Suddenly, his rivals appear and shoot Markell in the head. In time, Justice continues writing poetry, and works as a beautician at Jessie’s Salon. Owner Jessie encourages her to start dating again, but when a postal carrier named “Lucky” comes into the salon and flirts, Justice turns him down. Leaving work, Lucky visits his young daughter, Keisha, at the home of his former girl friend, Angel. When he discovers that she continues to smoke crack cocaine, Lucky beats up Angel’s boyfriend, and takes Keisha home with him. Sometime later, Justice’s friend, Iesha, tells her she is going on a road trip with her postal worker boyfriend, “Chicago,” to take a mail truck to Oakland, California, and invites Justice to join them. When Justice declines and insults her friend’s choice in boyfriends, Iesha warns that Justice will end up as an “old maid.” Elsewhere, Lucky tells his mother he will be spending another weekend in Oakland, where he records rap songs in his cousin Kalil’s home studio. He also shares his plan to fight for Keisha’s custody. Justice prepares to attend a hair show in Oakland, but when her automobile fails to start, she telephones Iesha and asks for a ride. Justice is displeased to discover that Lucky is driving the mail truck, with Iesha and Chicago as his passengers. Justice and Lucky immediately start bickering, and Justice later demands to be left on the side of the deserted highway. When Iesha awakens in the back of the truck and realizes Justice is gone, she demands that Lucky return for her friend. Justice refuses to accept the ride, but Iesha convinces her that Lucky is only giving her a hard time because he likes her. As they drive on, Justice writes poetry in her notebook and piques Lucky’s curiosity. When they see an African-American family BBQ, the friends attend incognito, pretending to be cousins. Justice and Lucky begin to relax. She reveals that she does not have any family, and that her former boyfriend was a drug dealer, but refuses to say more. When Iesha gets drunk and flirts with another man, Chicago becomes angry, and Lucky ushers them away before trouble starts. Iesha and Chicago continue fighting in the back of the truck, and Justice tearfully proclaims that Iesha has a drinking problem. Iesha apologizes, and promises to get help. When the group stops at a beach, Justice and Lucky grow closer. Sometime later, Iesha and Chicago resume their fight, and Chicago punches her in the face, prompting Justice to kick him. He turns his anger on Justice, but Lucky comes to her defense and beats Chicago before driving away, leaving him on the side of the road. Further up the coast at a scenic lookout, Justice tells Lucky that her mother died two years earlier, leaving her all alone. Lucky kisses her. When the friends finally arrive in Oakland, Lucky tells Justice that he has a daughter. Before she has time to respond, Lucky notices ambulances outside his aunt’s home, and is stunned to discover his cousin has been shot and killed. Justice comforts Lucky as they drive away. Dropping the girls off at their motel, Lucky blames Justice for delaying their arrival, and preventing him from stopping the shooting. Salon owner Jessie meets the girls at the motel before the hair show, and shares her advice on men. Lucky returns to his Aunt Audrey’s home, and weeps in Kalil’s studio as he listens to the recordings they made together. Later, Lucky asks for Kalil’s music equipment. In time, Lucky gains custody of his daughter, and sets up a recording studio in his garage. He visits Justice at the hair salon, and introduces her to Keisha. When he asks forgiveness, Justice kisses him, prompting comments from the customers. Justice puts Keisha in her salon chair to fix the little girl’s hair, and smiles at Lucky from across the room. +

Legend
Viewed by AFI
Partially Viewed
Offscreen Credit
Name Occurs Before Title
AFI Life Achievement Award

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