Boyz N the Hood - Classic Film Pick
In 1991 writer/director John Singleton brought the plight of young African American men to mass audiences with a deeply personal depiction of life in South Central L.A. With an impressive cast of newcomers that includes Cuba Gooding, Jr., Ice Cube, and Regina King, the film is divided into three acts that encompass the early life trajectory of its young protagonist Tré Styles. Ten-year-old Tré's parents Reva (Angela Bassett) and Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne) are divorced. A signed agreement with his mother regarding his behavior at school sends Tré to live with his father in South Central's Crenshaw neighborhood. Reva holds him to his word. Determined for Tré to rise above the dire fate of most of his neighbors, Furious instills specific lessons about how Tré should carry himself as a young man. He tells him to stay out of the Army, and not to respect anyone who doesn't respect him. Tré is the only character with a concerned father raising him.
If the film dips into a preaching tone of instructional polemic, it comes from a place of well considered unease. On the brink of entering college Tré (Gooding Jr.) is preoccupied with establishing a romantic life with his girlfriend Brandi (Nia Long). He spends most of his time with Ricky, his athletic best-friend since childhood. Already a father, Ricky has blossomed into a star high school football player with a shot at a USC college scholarship if he can score above a 700 on his upcoming SAT exam.
Shootings are a nightly occurrence in South Central. Search lights from police helicopters shine through the windows of kids doing homework. American media outlets cover wars in other countries, but turn a blind eye to the siege of violence on its own streets. The filmmaker sets the film's editorial parameter before the first scene rolls. "One out of every twenty-one Black American males will be murdered in their lifetime. Most will die at the hands of another Black male."
"Boyz N the Hood" is more than a time-capsule of American existence. It is a boldly defiant, and desperate, call for peace in the midst of anarchy. The film can be viewed as a cinematic West Coast response to Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing."
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