NSFW: Due to the content of the following film being reviewed and the review itself, readers discretion is advised. 

The late 80’s and early 90’s saw a groundbreaking breakthrough in the black community. N.W.A. changed the face of the rap game with their album Straight Outta Compton and a plethora of black actors got exposure on the big screen and the small screen.  The push to make black youth succeed in education was prevalent and discover the roots of their culture was thriving. The gang violence & murders that corrupted the predominantly black communities in both the projects to South Central Los Angeles set the wrong example and a terrifying reality the citizens suffered daily.  Luckily, the cinema can be the perfect place to bring these issues to the forefront, which is exactly what John Singleton set out to do with 1991’s Boyz N the Hood.

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The godfather of the ‘hood’ film, Boyz N the Hood is often imitated, but never duplicated (unless it is Don’t Be A Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood, which is one delightful guilty pleasure). The true question is: Does this film still hold up? To answer that in the most gangsta way possible, you best believe it does…motherfucker.

For those not in the know

BUT FOR THOSE NOT IN THE KNOW!

NO! We stopped doing that after Sleeping Beauty after we ran that joke into the ground

Anyway, Boyz follows a young Tre Styles living in South Central Los Angeles who got into some trouble at school after his fight. His mother got scared and sent him to his uncle and aunt in Bel-Air…wait, wrong story. Tre’s mom, played by the gorgeous Angela Basset, sends Tre to live with his young father, Furious Styles, played by Lawrence Fishburne credited here as Larry, on the other side of town to teach Tre a lesson. Tre knows the neighborhood boys such as Darren “Doughboy” Baker, who ends up going to juvie, and Ricky Baker, Doughboy’s brother with dreams of being a football star. Tre’s youth is filled with dealing with burglars, the local teenage Crips and having to see dead bodies on a daily basis.

Cut to seven years later, a now seventeen year-old Tre, played by Cuba ‘Show Me The Money’ Gooding, Jr, has himself a steady job, a good education, virginity in tact and a girl on his arm. Tre welcomes back Doughboy, played by O’Shea Jackson aka Ice Cube, playing dominoes and still drinking forties with his crew on the damn porch after being in prison for an unknown amount of time. Ricky, played by Morris Chestnut, is supporting his family and his son with the aspiration to get a scholarship to the University of Southern California (USC) and trying to be a role model as well. The film itself is just another week in the hood of South Central Los Angeles.

Watching Boyz N the Hood for the first time was something of great opinion changer for the way I think of the ‘hood’ film. In order to talk about why that is, we have to dive into spoiler territory. For those who have yet to see it, just skip to the final paragraph. If those who do not care, let’s get down to it.

|SPOILER ALERT|

Earlier, I said the film still holds up with ‘motherfucker’ for emphasis, but it does. Boyz perfectly captures the culture and the violence that took apart South Central Los Angeles and gave them the reputation of one of the most dangerous ‘hoods’ in the US. I cannot personally speak from experience since I was born in 1992, but after hearing the stories my mother and father have told me about Los Angeles in the 90s, this film was just the tip of the iceberg. The film using this as a motif for the story it is trying to tell in an intelligent manner. That story is the struggle of breaking away from the dangerous change in the culture or embracing the culture even if it can lead to unfortunate events.

Case in point, Ricky and Doughboy being foils of one another. Doughboy is just a thug going to races and ready to kill if any motherfucker comes across to rouse his nature. Ricky struggles and strives on the educational front to benefit his future already in his mind. Tre, on the other hand, is caught between these two worlds and must figure out which one he falls into. Tre is one of the first main characters I have seen in a film that allows us to connect based on him also being the audience surrogate. Tre constantly talks to his father about what is going on and his girlfriend where his life may lead him. Yet, even being caught in the middle can be the struggle in itself leading to deadly results

Due to Doughboy’s path, Ricky ends up getting shot and killed, which causes Tre to lose his shit, get a gun and attempt to go get the fuck who killed RIcky. Furious sees this and…well, lives up to his name.

Tre sneaks out anyway with Dough, only to realize it will not be worth it as he would being falling right into the new stereotype being created in the violence. Tre leaves, but Dough finds the gang that sent the shooter. Unfortunately, none of them pulled the trigger, but Dough, with a loaded gun and blood full of venom, takes them out in cold blood regardless. In that moment, Dough realizes what he has done and how it will come back to haunt him.  What is interesting is that there are no reports of this in the media, but there are reports of other places suffering from violence as the world is now a more violent place. Tre and Dough discuss that the ‘hood’ is a place no motherfucker cares about and how they can continue on if no exposure is brought to it. This is a heartbreaking and bittersweet moment as the epilogue states Doughboy was murdered and Tre left to go to Atlanta to focus on his education and career.

What else Boyz captures well is the talk about promiscuous sex and how to watch oneself due to the rise in AIDS. Furious endorses the idea of safe sex to Tre, while Tre is a virgin due to his girlfriend Bandi’s abstinence ways. In this era, sure, the talk of promiscuous sex is everywhere and most would argue why she would not ‘put out’, but in the 90’s, it was a big deal and for it to be handled so well on screen doing a time where the entire young black community was seen as promiscuous is unheard. As for Brandi, that is her decision and respect must be paid to anyone that feels that way. Boyz still holds up today, but somehow, it is a bittersweet feeling.

Boyz N the Hood has great direction, fantastic performances, especially from Ice Cube, and tells its message without making the core demographic seem less than capable of understanding. The reason it is bittersweet may be that certain youth may embrace this film in the wrong light and fall into the trap Tre almost fell into. A certain few can misread the message of the film or a certain few can see the true message of it, just depends on where they feel Tre should have fell into. Luckily, life in South Central Los Angeles is not as bad as it was in the 90’s. A year after this film where the LA Riots, one of the biggest and high in cost destruction to the community of South Central, but lately, the area has been on an upswing and straying away from the errors of its former past. Hell, it is not even South Central Los Angeles anymore recently going to be known as the Florence-Firestone area. Things have been looking up ever since Boyz ended with a simple message.

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Boyz N the Hood is a true masterpiece in every sense of the word.

Next week, Film A Week heads where this series has not gone before: into the extreme. FAW heads Gaspar Noe’s Irreversible Roger Ebert called “a movie so violent and cruel that most people will find it unwatchable.” It is going difficult of me to watch for the sole reason of one scene: a no cutaway shot rape. It is going to be completely serious.

Film A Week 33: Irreversible (2002)
Friday, August 23rd

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