Juice is a legendary film that provided life-changing roles for Tupac Shakur and Omar Epps, and 25 years after its release, the film’s director has offered an alternate ending.
Everyone should know the original film by now: a group of high school friends named Bishop (Shakur), Q (Epps), Raheem (Khalil Khan) and Steel (Jermaine ‘Huggy’ Hopkins) all rob a convenience store together, and Bishop uses the gun from that robbery to shoot and kill Raheem while the four of them are hiding out. Bishop then becomes sociopathic and power-hungry, terrorizing Q and Steel for the rest of the film. In the final scene, Q and Bishop square off in a fight on a rooftop; as Bishop is about to fall off the roof, Q tries to help him back up, but Bishop eventually falls to his death.
In the original film, Bishop tries to fight himself back up to the roof with Q’s help. But in the alternate version, freshly-released from Rolling Stone, Bishop hears the police sirens and kill himself by letting go of Q’s hand on his own.
“Part of who Bishop is, is based on what he knows, or what he heard happened to his father in prison. His father is traumatized,” explained Director Ernest Dickerson. “As scripted…[Bishop] hears the cops coming and he looks in Q’s eyes and he says, ‘I’m not going to jail.’ Then he lets go. He would rather die than go to jail.
“It was just an attitude that shows that Bishop wasn’t a punk, and that he was a force that really had to be reckoned with and dealt with,” Dickerson continued.
That ending did poorly with test audiences at the time of the film’s release. After Bishop’s performance as such a terrifying antagonist in the film, viewers hated the idea of him deciding his own fate. Last year, in a screening and Q&A session with some of the actors and staff, Dickerson said that those audiences originally wanted Q to shoot Bishop at the end of the film. The film’s producers didn’t go that far, but they told Dickerson and co-writer Gerard Brown that they take back advertising support for the film unless they changed the ending.
While Dickerson and Brown’s work is undeniable, this writer prefers the ending as shown in theaters. It helps to drive home the point of Q being himself and putting his friends first, and gives Bishop a chance to redeem himself while still having to pay the price for all of his transgressions in the film. It shows that despite the monster he became once he finally had the power that came with a gun, that he was really a scared kid who was destroyed by his environment.
The 25th anniversary Blu-Ray and DVD of Juice was released this past Tuesday.