“Girl, you know you need Jesus,” Nikita’s (Essence Atkins) girlfriend tells her near the end of Nikita Blues. That’s the message of this failed morality melodrama of vice and questionable virtue. Seventeen-year-old Nikita is a problem child on the cusp of becoming a problem adult. Since her boss, Mr. Rivera, won’t promote her from stock to sales, she gets her revenge by shoplifting clothes from his store and selling them at school.
Nikita rhymes with Lolita, but where 12-year-old little Lo is the victim of an English teacher’s seduction, Nikita victimizes her English professor, Mr. Jackson (Kenny Lee). “I’m gonna have him by any means necessary,” she vows, tacking Malcolm X’s determination to her teenage lust. But if momma finds out? Lord, help her Jesus.
Nikita may be on the wrong path, but she’s no worse and actually better than most of the boot camp-bound girls regularly featured on daytime TV talk shows. The villain of Nikita Blues is the blaspheming felon and pervert White Boy Wayne (Eddy Rubin) who manages to find the time to hijack trucks with his black partner, J-Smooth (William L. Johnson) when he isn’t busy masturbating or trying to get “a piece of that young ass” from the girls at Nikita’s high school. Wayne is a Polish devil in the flesh, the personification of vice.
But Nikita Blues is short on virtues. Its characters trivialize child molestation, tease a church-going “recovering” homosexual and offer bad advice. Technically, the writing, acting and filmmaking struggle just to attain competence. Nikita may need Jesus, but perhaps writer-director Marc Cayce needs a fresh look at Spike Lee’s She’s Gotta Have It (1986), John Singleton’s Boyz N the Hood (1991) or even Matty Rich’s Straight Out of Brooklyn (1991) to see the virtues and possibilities of low-budget African-American filmmaking.
E-mail James Keith La Croix at [email protected].