3 1/2 StarsJason and Joshua are brothers that have grown up haunted by a violent night that led to the death of their father. A domestic dispute that spiraled out of control. Trying to make good on his life and get away from the dangerous Houston streets, Jason (Allen Payne) finds a source of inspiration in a beautiful girl named Lyric (Pinkett-Smith), whose dreams of fleeing the neighborhood together give him hope for a better life. But when Joshua turns to a life of crime and drugs, Jason finds himself torn between his love for lyric and his obligation to family.
Riding on the wave of commercial and critical success that met filmmakers like John Singleton and the Hughes Brothers, Jason’s Lyric is Romeo and Juliet fashioned for our (more) violent inner-city times. While there is a ‘hood element to the story director Doug Mchenry seems more influenced by the arty work from Spike Lee, particularly in the rhyming street person that punctuates each act. It’s almost like the greek chorus, aloft on Mt. Olympus lamenting the foolish actions of the mortals.
The film is anchored by three solid leads, Allen Payne and Jada Pinkett as the lovers and Bookem Woodbine as the loose cannon ex-con brother who gets wrapped up in a bank robbery scheme. Payne was effective in New Jack City and Pinkett-Smith was equally well cast in Menace to Society, but here she is a luminous ray of warmth. Her smokey eyes and predilection for spouting poetry make Lyric a memorable character in an unforgiving story.
Jason’s Lyric is a four star romance film surrounded by a three star gangster flick. Both genres fight it out and the result can be tonally choppy, but never boring. The final shot is essentially a cheat, it feels false and nearly undermines all that has come before. It has the ring of test market interference as if audiences didn’t understand the plot points in classical narrative tragedies. However, Jason’s Lyric is a gripping film with powerful performances and a hit soundtrack.
Director: Doug McHenry
Stars: Bokeem Woodbine, Allen Payne, Jada Pinkett