BOYZ N THE HOOD - Golden Oldies On the Big Screen
BOYZ N THE HOOD
For Hicksflicks.com, Friday, Jan. 1, 2021
EDITOR’S NOTE: John Singleton died last year at age 51 but he will always be remembered for the critically and commercially successful drama ‘Boyz N the Hood,’ which debuted at the Cannes Film Festival and earned him status as the first black filmmaker to be nominated for a best-director Oscar, and as the youngest person to be so nominated. He was 24. To celebrate the film’s 30th anniversary Turner Classic Movies and Fathom Events are presenting a big-screen revival that will play in local Megaplex and Cinemark multiplexes on Sunday, Feb.. 28, and Wednesday, March 3. My review was published on July 14, 1991.
"Boyz N the Hood" could easily be dismissed by cynics — in particular those who haven't seen it — as just another angry black film finding its way into theaters on the heels of Spike Lee's mainstream, studio-backed success. And the cynic in me does see that as part of the reason Columbia Pictures picked up this low-budget independent picture.
But "Boyz" is the best so far of the string of such movies we've gotten recently because it is more thoughtful than angry and focuses on its characters rather than their tragedies.
Actor Ice Cube and writer/director John Singleton on the set of 'Boyz N the Hood' (1991).
The central character in this ensemble piece is young Tre (Desi Arnez Hines II), whom we meet when he's 10 years old. His mother reluctantly decides to let him move in with his father (Larry Fishburne), whose South-Central Los Angeles neighborhood seems to be a fairly ordinary, lower-income suburb — until you start noticing the background noises and the subject of the conversations between Tre and his friends.
The sounds are sirens and helicopters, so distracting that we see at one point a high school girl at home unable to concentrate on her studies. Casual conversation often centers around drugs, sex and drive-by shootings, all ordinary, everyday concerns to these kids.
After Tre settles in and the characters are established, "Boyz" jumps forward seven years as Tre (now played by Cuba Gooding Jr.) and his buddies are seniors in high school.
His best friend Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a football star who is attracting college scholarship attention, is saddled with a young wife and child; Ricky's brother Doughboy (rap star Ice Cube) is into drugs and theft; another friend has wound up in a wheelchair, apparently the result of a drive-by shooting; and Tre is frustrated with his chaste girlfriend. All are worried and confused about their futures — if they have futures.
Ultimately, they will become involved in the neighborhood violence they've strived so long to avoid, with tragic results. But 22-year-old writer-director John Singleton isn't a doomsayer. And while there are lengthy speeches here about solutions to problems, he manages to avoid preachiness or the temptation to justify radical action.
Rather, he approaches the subjects he raises quite simply, suggesting each person is responsible for his or her own actions. And in the end, though there is certainly tragedy and frustration, Singleton also allows a glimmer of hope.
Though "Boyz N the Hood" does falter here and there, overall it is very affecting, with many powerful moments and understated performances. Singleton proves he understands the language of the medium better than many of his more seasoned peers.
It is unfortunate, however, that Singleton includes what have become the clichés of wall-to-wall profanity and graphic sex, since those elements may well limit his audience.
The film is rated R for considerable profanity, as well as violence, sex, nudity, vulgarity and drugs.