Boyz N The Hood

"Excellent"

Boyz N The Hood Review


Boyz n the Hood is a movie so fraught with cultural significance that it's hard to remember if it's any good. Upon its release, it was immediately hailed for its startling depiction of gang violence in South Central L.A. But then, in a sort of nightmarish Purple Rose of Cairo twist, the violence jumped from the screen to the audience. All around the country, at scores of theaters showing Boyz, acts of violence--shootings, stabbings, brawls--heaped gasoline on the already burning controversy surrounding the cultural influence of gangsta rap and its glorification of the gangsta lifestyle. Less than a year after Boyz' release, racial tensions boiled over and rioting swept through the very neighborhoods where the film's action is set. And while it would be absurd to claim that Boyz had anything to do with the start of the unrest, the riots made it clear that the rage and frustration depicted in the film was eerily on the money. So, more than a decade later, in a completely different racial climate, with gangsta rap now as mainstream as mac-and-cheese, does Boyz n the Hood still play? Yeah, in a very raw way, it does.

Writer-director John Singleton was only 23 when Boyz hit the big screen in 1991, and if the intervening years have brought anything into sharper focus, it's his immaturity as a writer. Boyz is a sledgehammer of a film -- powerful, but hardly subtle. Singleton centers his story on the character of Tré Styles, who's about 11 in the opening sequence. After Tré gets into a fight at school, he's taken to live with his father, Furious (Laurence Fishburne), who has a better shot at teaching him how to be a man than his mother (Angela Bassett) does. Tré's best friends are Doughboy -- a tough, pudgy, troublemaking little kid -- and Ricky -- Doughboy's good-looking, athletic younger brother. As the sequence winds to a close, Furious' paternal influence keeps Tré out of trouble while the fatherless Doughboy ends up being arrested for shoplifting.

Boyz' first half hour self-consciously mirrors Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, the filmic equivalent of Wonder Bread. Tré, Doughboy, and Ricky wander down railroad tracks, get harassed by older boys, and go see a dead body, just as in Stand by Me. Throughout these scenes, Singleton does his best work. There is a universal quality to the young boys' dreams and anxieties, their hunger for adventure and curiosity with the world. The ugliness that surrounds them, the drugs and violence and racism, sharply contrasts with their innocence and basic humanity. What doesn't fly as well are Furious' intermittent sermons to Tré. They feel less like a father teaching his son than a filmmaker teaching his audience.

Boyz then jumps seven years into the future. Tré (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is now a bright, responsible young man with a great future. Ricky (Morris Chestnut) is a star athlete who hopes to nail down a football scholarship to USC. Doughboy (Ice Cube) is a gangsta who's in and out of the jail and drinks 40s all day long. Once again, their experiences are in some ways typical -- Tré's trying to lose his virginity, Ricky's worried about school, Doughboy wants his mom off his back -- but in other ways disturbing -- worrying about drive-bys, living next door to crack dens, being harassed by racist cops. What changes, though, is that as Tré, Ricky, and Doughboy grow into manhood, they cease to be spectators to their environmental terrors, as they were when they were kids. Instead, they're drawn into the violence as active participants. For them, the fray is unavoidable.

Here lies the real drama of Boyz n the Hood. Singleton, who grew up in South Central himself, has a firsthand awareness of how staggeringly difficult it is for a child to overcome poverty, violence, drugs, racism, etc., and emerge a healthy, successful autonomous adult. For this reason, his excesses -- and there are plenty of them -- are understandable.

Singleton was nominated for two Academy Awards for Boyz -- one for Best Original Screenplay and one for Best Director, beating Orson Welles by two years as the youngest person ever to be nominated for the latter award. And while Singleton will never be considered in Welles' class as a director, or as a writer for that matter, his work on this powerful film deserved all of the commendation it received. Singleton had his fingers on the pulse of South Central at a time when it desperately needed help. It's too bad we didn't listen to him soon enough.



Boyz N The Hood

Facts and Figures

Run time: 112 mins

In Theaters: Friday 12th July 1991

Box Office Worldwide: $57.5M

Budget: $6.5M

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Production compaines: Columbia Pictures Corporation

Reviews

Contactmusic.com: 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 96%
Fresh: 47 Rotten: 2

IMDB: 7.8 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director:

Starring: as Jason 'Furious' Styles, Cuba Gooding Jr. as Tré Styles, as Darin 'Doughboy' Baker, as Ricky Baker, as Reva Devereaux, as Brandi, Tyra Ferrell as Brenda Baker, Lexie Bigham as Mad Dog, Desi Arnez Hines II as Young Tré Styles, John Cothran, Jr. as Lewis Crump, USC Recruiter, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson as Officer Coffey, Tammy Hanson as Rosa, as Shalika

Contactmusic


Links



Advertisement

New Movies

Trumbo Movie Review

Trumbo Movie Review

An entertaining film about sobering true events, this is the story of notorious screenwriter Dalton...

Goosebumps Movie Review

Goosebumps Movie Review

Mixing the action, comedy and horror from novelist R.L. Stein's books into a family-friendly package,...

Dad's Army Movie Review

Dad's Army Movie Review

The beloved 1970s British sit-com gets the big screen treatment, although there's been very little...

Spotlight Movie Review

Spotlight Movie Review

This film demonstrates that you don't need guns to make an exciting thriller. Based on...

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi Movie Review

Not the subtlest director working in Hollywood, Michael Bay brings his surging machismo to this...

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

Dirty Grandpa Movie Review

There's nothing clever about this deliberately rude and vulgar comedy, but certain audiences will find...

The Big Short Movie Review

The Big Short Movie Review

Smart and snappy, this comedy is one of the scariest films of the year, using...

Advertisement
The 5th Wave Movie Review

The 5th Wave Movie Review

Also based on the first in a trilogy of post-apocalyptic teen novels, this thriller feels...

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ride Along 2 Movie Review

Ice Cube and Kevin Hart reteam for a sequel no one really asked for, following...

Room Movie Review

Room Movie Review

One of the most extraordinary films of the year, this drama cleverly weaves in events...

Creed Movie Review

Creed Movie Review

While this film is basically Rocky VII, it's also much more than that, and perhaps...

A Perfect Day Movie Review

A Perfect Day Movie Review

An irreverent comedy in the style of the original M.A.S.H., this wartime romp takes an...

Partisan Movie Review

Partisan Movie Review

With his feature debut, young Australian filmmaker Ariel Kleiman tells a creepy story about a...

The Revenant Movie Review

The Revenant Movie Review

A wrenching saga of survival and revenge, Alejandro G. Inarritu's new epic is just as...

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

The Hateful Eight Movie Review

Quentin Tarantino is a filmmaker who simply can't be ignored, especially when he lobs a...

Advertisement
Artists
Actors
    Filmmakers
      Artists
      Bands
        Musicians
          Artists
          Celebrities
             
              Artists
              Interviews
                musicians & bands in the news
                  actors & filmmakers in the news
                    celebrities in the news

                      Go Back in Time using our News archive to see what happened on a particular day in the past.