Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Flick of The Day: Boyz 'N The Hood

Yesterday we looked at a tale of life in the Irish ganglands, Between The Canals. Today, we look at somewhere much more associated with gang violence and its effects, South Central Los Angeles and director John Singleton's debut film about the trials and tribulations of 3 young black males growing up on the streets of South Central. 
Groundbreaking on its release in 1991, Boyz N The Hood was one of the first films to document the exploding levels of gang violence in the inner city ghettoes of America in the late '80s and early '90s. Following in the footsteps of Spike Lee's seminal Do The Right Thing, Singleton explores the lives of three young men from when they meet as children in 1984 to adulthood in the early '90s. Tre Styles, played by Cuba Gooding Jr as an adult in a performance that makes you wonder how he ended up making films like Boat Trip and Snow Dogs. We meet him as smart mouth child who can't stay out of trouble and so his mother forces him to move in with his father Furious, the incomparable Laurence Fishburne. Furious is a strong father figure, something lacking in the lives of Tre's two best friends Doughboy and his brother Ricky. This becomes evident early on and sets the tone for the rest of their lives. The film then moves forward 7 years. Doughboy is played by Ice Cube, in a performance of surprising depth. 
It becomes obvious early on that the course of the character's lives are unlikely to change and the message that is drilled home is that the lack of a father figure leads to the kind of dissolution and drug abuse that pervades not just American cities but ghettoes the world over. Tre is a good student headed for College, Ricky is an up and coming football star and Doughboy is a drug dealer and gangster. The film manages to convey what its like to live in South Central with the frequent sound of not too distant gunfire and the constant menace of gang violence. As the friends sit on their stoop and pass the day, they are always watching the passing cars and pedestrians, always on the edge.
If the film suffers from anything it is from too many ideas. It tries to sandwich all the troubles and strife of black inner city life in the early '90s. At one point, Laurence Fishburne discusses at length the problems of gentrification in urban areas. He often seems to be stuck as the character who has to raise all of these issues from racial bias in standardised testing to the perils of teen pregnancy. That said, it doesn't feel too forced and the film overall looks and feels realistic with the dialogue true to life in particular. 

Tre Styles: I get a discount on clothes, and shit. You like? 
Doughboy: Nigga, you look like you selling rocks! 
Chris: Yo, Tre' you be slinging that shit? 
Tre Styles: No, I don't sell that shit! 
Doughboy: You couldn't anyway! Pops will kick yo' ass! You know I'm out the pen. I'm gon' keep my ass out this time.

Overall, this is a fine film, that doesn't lose anything by being issue driven like so many films that come across as overtly preachy.  In Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr and Laurence Fishburne are three excellent performances, that drive the film forward. The message of the film is a good one too, if only people would take it to heart. Well worth a look.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Follow by Email