Saturday, May 25, 2013
Short Cut Movie Review: Boyz N the Hood
A Short Cut Movie Review is normally less than 400 words, but in some cases may go slightly over. This is my attempt to keep writing about as many films as I see without getting bogged down with trying to find more to say. They are meant to be brief snapshots of my reaction to a movie without too much depth.
When I watched Colors a few years ago I discovered what felt like an incredibly dated piece of urban crime drama. Reading old reviews I found the original reception hailed it as gritty and realistic. In the case of Boyz N the Hood, I had already seen it several times before watching it again recently, but still found much of it very dated. Perhaps it’s a general problem with all urban crime dramas of that period that they now feel like they’re from another era.
This doesn’t change my opinion of John Singleton’s film debut as one of the best written and directed films of the early 90s. It is truly remarkable to consider that he made the film at age 23 and wrote it when he was even younger. It vibrates with urgency and a maturity often not achieved by directors ten years his senior. Much of it is preachy in its conception, a forgivable fault for its standing as a message movie, a rallying cry to end the gang violence omnipresent in certain neighborhoods of L.A.
Cuba Gooding Jr. was still young and virtually unknown when he gave what I still consider his best performance as a teen being raised by a responsible father in a terrible neighborhood racked by gang violence and drugs. As his father, Lawrence Fishburne exudes paternal care and warmth and a wisdom way beyond his 32 years. His character is the consummate voice of reason, the preacher, and philosopher trying to change the world with ideas. He is Singleton’s mouthpiece. Rapper Ice Cube is effective as one of Gooding’s friends, an ex-convict unable to escape the shadow of his younger brother, played by Morris Chestnut. Angela Bassett also appears in a couple of scenes as Gooding’s mother.
The tension almost never lets up. The story is heartbreaking and tragic. Though the direction is at times unnecessarily flashy and the writing occasionally heavy-handed, Boyz N the Hood remains one of th best in that long ago series of L.A. gang films.