At the Movies with Alan Gekko: Boyz N The Hood

MPAA Rating: R/ Genre: Drama/ Stars: Cuba Gooding Jr., Angela Bassett, Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell, Redge Green, Whitman Mayo, John Singleton, Dedrick D. Gobert. Baldwin C. Sykes, Tracey Lewis-Sinclair, Alysia Rogers, Regina King, Lexie Bigham/ Runtime: 112 minutes

I think it is safe to say that there have been a lot of movies released over the course of the history of cinema, but very few of them are on the level of Boyz N The Hood. Indeed this 1991 film from helmer John Singleton is a genuinely gut-punching, heart-breaking, and brutal in its integrity-filled look at just what kind of an impact the fruits of desperation and heartless violence on the streets of South Central in Los Angeles comes to bear on several young African American men as they try to live their best possible life amidst the desperation that overwhelms them daily just as much as the general anarchy in the neighborhood itself. Indeed a truly incredible film in every way, this is a movie which is a success not because of the powerhouse performances of its cast or for the fantastic work at the helm by Singleton. Rather it succeeds due its unflinchingly brutal sense of realism and stakes, as well as an incredibly well-written script, the latter ingredient incidentally also helps to construct the film’s characters to such a brilliant extent that each and every one of you who sits down to watch this will find yourself identifying and empathizing with them regardless of your race, your lot in life, or just where you choose to call home be it in Los Angeles or in Northern Butte Point, North Dakota. Yet it should also be noted that this is a film that is unique in that it will raise more than its fair share of questions that you, the viewer will quickly discover have no easy to find or genuine answers to. This is because this is a film which is not designed to solve the various problems that exist in the hood, but rather to give audiences a chance to take a long, hard look at just what it is like to live your life in what seems almost like an inescapable labyrinth of madness that slowly, but surely strives to take everything from you, your life included, as the heart-wrenching violence and powerlessness make an impact on everyone who enters, but especially the seldom few who are lucky enough to get out.

The plot is as follows: Boyz N The Hood starts its riveting saga in the far gone year of 1984 as we witness a group of young boys residing in the South Central area of L.A. as they manage to get a first-hand encounter with just what life may have up her sleeves for each and every one of them following their discovery of a corpse within the labyrinthesque maze that is their ‘hood. Amongst the group are noteworthy boys Doughboy, Ricky, and newly arrived on the scene Tré who has literally been, but all but dropkicked to his father’s doorstep by his mother so he can potentially grow up and become a man. Suffice it to say that although this nowhere near the finest landscape in the world in which to raise a kid, Tre’s dad still does everything he can to ensure not only that his son works hard, but also to learn a thing or 2 and uncover all the complexities that life has in store for him as he grows up. Cut to a few years later, and we see that our group of pals have all grown in their own ways as we see that Doughboy is on his way out of prison, Ricky is on the path to escape courtesy of an impending scholarship to play football, and Tre is doing everything in his power to stay on the path of righteousness by getting the best grades he can and acquiring legit employment at the mall until he too can leave and head off to college. Sadly despite the boys’ intentions and their best laid plans, violence and all the other horrendous elements at play in the world seem deadset on seeing them thwarted at nearly every given turn. Thus can our boys in the hood make the journey to adulthood with not only their lives, but also their character and their friendships with each other still in one piece?

Now it is safe to say that Boyz n the Hood is a film about the journey that we all embark on through life albeit with the exception that this take on life is one that not only do few people wish to know and comprehend, but sadly even fewer wish to try and understand. Indeed this is a life where a 9MM Glock can be pointed out an open window, where young people have a target on their back simply because of their friends’ actions, and the cops don’t really do much to try and help curb the tide thus reinforcing the belief that their neighborhood really has degraded into a volatile and deadly warzone. Yet despite all the temptations, the violence, the crime, and the tragedy, there are still spots of optimism which exist in the form of individuals who appreciate common sense, and who not only comprehend just how crucial education is, but also appreciate just what civility can bring to their life, and who strive to show others how to do the same even in the middle of what could literally be seen as Hell on Earth. In this movie, that undying spirit of optimism and hope is one which is extolled by Tre’s dad “Furious”. Indeed here is a guy who is a lot more insightful and wise than his situation might suggest, and who has chosen to accept, and learn from the errors that both he has committed and he has seen others commit. Thus in the world of the ‘hood this man is not just brilliant, but an outright sage, and a genuine outpouring of information which could help save his son’s life since he understands not just what it means to survive, but also why his son getting out is so integral. Thus it should go without saying, but Fishburne not only does a wonderful job in the role, but he makes him the most integral character in the film due to being the only guy who has a full comprehension of the world the film is set in and who is able to stay on the straight and narrow no matter what happens.

Be that as it may be, the rest of the cast in this potent tale also deliver powerful performances, despite the fact that this film is held up amazingly just with the performance given by Laurence Fishburne though in all fairness the trinity of characters played by Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, and Morris Chestnut respectively are all more integral to the overall narrative. Indeed this trinity and the supporting cast backing them up throughout the film all do absolutely riveting work if not fleshed out a wee bit more expansively rather than on a personal and intricate level than we might expect them to be. Nevertheless, as an entry in the genre of movie magic known as the Character Drama, this film is an unequivocal triumph. Indeed this film manages to utilize a vast array of emotions from contentment to unease all the way to anxiety to fury with the exception perhaps of complete peace and tranquility for even the best moments in the film so as to showcase to the audience that good things sadly aren’t meant to last forever be it through people and the choices they make or just plain organically. Also working in this film’s favor is the fact that it is overrunning with authenticity with a lot of credit for that going to the uncertain and downtrodden vibe that snakes its way through the film as heartbreaking yet honest as it may be. Indeed scribe/ helmer John Singleton is not trying to make this film a fantasy by any stretch; rather he wants this film to fire up the thought process in people and have them really take a long hard look at what is going on. Indeed it’s a film that in a way is trying to make a difference even if this glance at what life is like in these areas is merely a start. Yet in all fairness, sometimes a start is both better than nothing and can lead to change that both benefits those it’s supposed to whilst also helping the rest of us grow and become better people and that is a win in my book any day.

All in all Boyz n the Hood is a truly excellent and top notch entry in the genre of film known as the coming of age drama yet is an entry that is truly unlike the vast majority of the films contained in this particular subgenre of movie magic. This is because whereas the majority of the characters that populate and/or make up the casts in films like these just simply manage to learn a tad more about who they are than they knew before, the titular boys in Boyz n the Hood are struggling simply to just find out where they are as well as why the world around them is so receptive to the despair that has taken seemingly everything but their lives from them and when that doesn’t do the trick then the horrific violence on the streets is sure to take that as well. To that end, we see that this group of boys must learn the ins and outs of the world they live in before they can even have a remote shot of concentrating on the hows in order to make their lives just a little bit better before too much of them is wiped out due to the lifelines in the form of potential positives that life throws their way are all extinguished and used up. To that end, it should be noted that Boyz N The Hood is very difficult movie going experience to engage in and one that might be even harder for the vast majority of audiences out there to even remotely begin to comprehend. At the same time however, if you are able to make it through to the end and/or understand just where these characters are coming from then be aware that this is a truly enlightening yet also brutal movie going experience in equal measure due to the fact that this is a film ahead of its time due to possessing the strength and integrity to offer us an unyielding and quite serious view of a life that most have heard of, but only a few can truly relate and even fewer can truly understand. To that end, I should say that although before watching this movie I had heard of it, it is after seeing this movie that I can most assuredly promise you movie goers: I understand now as well. On a scale of 1-5 I give Boyz N The Hood a solid 4 out of 5.