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Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Doug McHenry|
Marilla Lane Ross
|Written by||Bobby Smith, Jr|
|Edited by||Andrew Mondshein|
|Distributed by||Gramercy Pictures|
Jason's Lyric is a 1994 erotic romantic drama film, written by Bobby Smith, Jr, directed by Doug McHenry, who co-produced the film with George Jackson and Marilla Lane Ross, and starring Allen Payne, Jada Pinkett Smith, Bokeem Woodbine, Treach, Eddie Griffin, Lahmard Tate, Lisa Nicole Carson, and Forest Whitaker. Set in Houston's Third Ward, the film is a story about misunderstood young American adults learning how to deal with love and maturity.
Jason (Allen Payne) is a responsible young man who has a job in a television repair shop and lives at home with his hard-working mom (Suzzanne Douglas). Joshua (Bokeem Woodbine) is the younger brother, who is just released from prison. Previously traumatized by his father, Joshua is a volatile, disturbed ex-con who is obviously bound for a violent end. Joshua deals drugs for short-term cash and joins a crew plotting a bank robbery.
When Lyric (Jada Pinkett Smith) walks into the shop to buy a television, Jason meets his perfect match. She has dreams of escape, and inspires Jason to do romantic things like borrow a city bus to take her on a date. Their relationship continually grows and blossoms into love. The height comes when Jason and Lyric take a romantic ride in a rowboat, then make love in the woods.
In a series of flashbacks, Forest Whitaker plays the boys' father, Mad Dog. Throughout the film, Jason has nightmares about a tragedy in his childhood. Either Jason (played as a youth by Sean Hutchinson) or Joshua (played as a youth by Burleigh Moore) killed Mad Dog, while he was drunkenedly attacking their mother. After being comforted by Lyric, he learns to deal with his past. Alonzo tells his gang and Joshua about the bank robbery plan. Lyric, eavesdropping on their conversation, tells Jason about the bank robbery.
Unfortunately, the robbery does not go as planned; Joshua comes in late. Most significantly, he causes bedlam by independently terrorizing and beating the customers of the bank. He does get in the getaway car with his gang when the heist is over. As punishment, Joshua is flogged by the rest of his gang. Joshua returns home. Jason realizes how badly he's been beaten, so he confronts the leader of the gang, Alonzo (Treach), who is Lyric's brother. As a result of this, the two have a vicious fight in a public restroom.
Jason then meets Lyric at the bayou and tells her that he can't leave with her. His nightmares occur because Jason took a gun from Joshua and accidentally shot Mad Dog in the chest, which is why he feels obligated to his family.
Things get worse when Joshua hears his mother tell Jason to leave town with Lyric because he doesn't owe her or Joshua anything. Joshua believes that Jason is leaving not only because of Lyric, but because Alonzo may take revenge. Joshua plans to kill them all in order to keep his brother from leaving.
Jason hears about Joshua's plan and heads to Alonzo/Lyric's house, but he's too late. He sees what has happened and rushes upstairs looking for Lyric. He finds that Joshua has a gun pointed at her neck. He draws a gun as well and is able to convince Joshua not to kill her. However Joshua's arm moves, causing him to accidentally pull the trigger and shoots Lyric. Jason carries her out of the home to a growing crowd outside the house. Lyric is injured, but still alive. Joshua is fed up with his life and decides to end it all by killing himself (off screen), in earshot of everyone outside. The film ends with Jason and Lyric riding a bus, leaving town; however, some versions do not show this part.
- Allen Payne — Jason Alexander
- Sean Hutchinson – Jason (age 11)
- Jada Pinkett Smith — Lyric
- Bokeem Woodbine — Joshua Alexander
- Burleigh Moore – Joshua (age 8)
- Anthony 'Treach' Criss — Alonzo "A-1"
- Eddie Griffin — Rat
- Suzzanne Douglas — Gloria
- Lisa Nicole Carson — Marti
- Lahmard Tate — Ron
- Forest Whitaker — Maddog
- Wayne Dehart - Street Preacher
Jason's Lyric received generally good reviews from movie critics. It currently has a 64% rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on 22 reviews with the consensus: "Jason's Lyric is a sexually charged film whose violent streak weakens or, depending on your perspective, supports the melodrama."
Roger Ebert gave the movie praise for its cast's performances, director Doug McHenry's "lyrical touches" to the poetic aesthetics of Bobby Smith, Jr.'s script and its willingness to tackle dramatic themes that New Jack City and Sugar Hill also explored, concluding that, "It's not some little plot-bound genre formula. It's invigorating, how much confidence it has, and how much space it allows itself." Deborah Young from Variety praised the performances of Whitaker, Payne and Woodbine, and the visual settings created by McHenry and cinematographer Francis Kenny but felt the film's script "stumbles into a lame love story and ends in a conventional shootout and bloodbath." Peter Rainer of the Los Angeles Times called the film "a terribly earnest melodrama with king-size ambitions", commending the filmmakers for their overall attempt at artistic cinema but found it "overextended and unbelievable both as love story and as urban tragedy." In response to his review, filmmaker Jamaa Fanaka gave high praise to the film's two main leads, its supporting cast, and the direction of McHenry. He also counteracted Rainer's opinion of the sex scenes being there to raise the film's box office, saying that its target demographic want to see romantic stories that feature two black leads in said scenes, and that the film offers them a sort of "cinematic sexual healing." Entertainment Weekly's Lisa Schwarzbaum gave it a C, writing that she found the brotherly storyline between Jason and Joshua more compelling than the main romantic plot, saying that the latter was "so dense with big themes strung together that character development suffers. And the emotional sum is less than the interconnection of its Tragedy 101 parts." In a review for The New York Times, Caryn James criticized the filmmaking for being overly stylized with its poetic aspirations and making the plot twist "unintentionally confusing rather than deliberately holding back information" with its editing. She called Jason's Lyric "a muddled film that takes a standard urban action movie and adds a veneer of overwrought romance."
- Jason's Lyric (soundtrack) — soundtrack to the film.
- "Jason's Lyric". Rotten Tomatoes. Flixster. Retrieved February 16, 2009.
- Ebert, Roger (September 28, 1994). "Jason's Lyric Movie Review". Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
- Young, Deborah (September 19, 1994). "Jason's Lyric". Variety. Penske Media Corporation. Retrieved March 22, 2018.
- Rainer, Peter (September 28, 1994). "Movie Review: Ambitious 'Jason's Lyric' Falls Short of Redemption". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
- Fanaka, Jamaa (October 24, 1994). "Big Amen for Rhythmic, Riveting and Sexy 'Jason's Lyric'". Los Angeles Times. Tronc. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
- Schwarzbaum, Lisa (October 7, 1994). "Movie Review: 'Jason's Lyric'". Entertainment Weekly. Time Inc. Retrieved March 27, 2018.
- James, Caryn (September 28, 1994). "In a Blighted Landscape, a Tale of Two Brothers". The New York Times. The New York Times Company. Retrieved March 22, 2018.