BOYZ N THE HOOD
Review by Michael Jacobson
Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Laurence Fishburne, Nia
Long, Angela Bassett, Tyra Ferrell
Director: John Singleton
Audio: DTS HD 5.1
Video: Anamorphic Widescreen 1.85:1
Features: See Review
Length: 112 Minutes
Release Date: July 19, 2011
wrong? Yeah. It’s just too bad you don’t know what it is.”
a film writer, there are some movies I look very forward to writing about, and
others I dread. But perhaps for the
first time in my career, I feel both at the same time.
Having never written about Boyz N the Hood before, I was eager to
finally put thought to paper. But
at the same time, I’m having to deal with the fact that my response to the
film is, and always has been, a very emotional one.
That’s a lot harder to get down in print.
could start by saying what a remarkable accomplishment it would have been for
any artist, but stunningly so considering the picture’s auteur was a 22 year
old first time filmmaker. I could
point out that, looking back over the movie’s ten years of life, that it’s
been one of the most influential films of those years, bringing movie audiences
around the world into the troubled world of gangs and ghettos…cinema’s been
going back and back ever since.
could state something obvious, like this is an extremely important film for
peoples of all races, creeds, colors, sexes or cultural backgrounds (it most
definitely is), or that its message needs to be heard and pondered by all (it
does). I could say it’s
extraordinarily well written, directed, and acted (it is) or I could point out
that it launched a lot of acting careers (Cuba Gooding Jr., Nia Long, Ice Cube
and Morris Chestnut to name a few).
what I really want to say is that this is one of the most devastatingly moving
motion pictures I’ve ever seen. I
want to say that when I watch the movie, I don’t just shed a quiet tear but
weep intensely. I want to tell you
that even after ten years, the movie’s power hasn’t diminished, nor has
it’s message lost relevance, nor have I ever become desensitized against the
emotional impact. After having not
seen the film in a few years, I watched it twice in the last two days, and still
each time feels like a new revelation.
is the movie that brought the world into South Central Los Angeles.
It was a place that had earned some cultural notoriety because of the
emerging music style of “gangsta rap”, and occasional reports on the
national news about the continuing gang warfare waged every day on the streets,
in the schools, and throughout the neighborhoods.
was a world that John Singleton knew well, and when he says it gave him a story
that he was born to tell, there’s no disputing it. With a hard hitting screenplay under his arm, he brought his
cameras into the places where he grew up, and opened our eyes to a way of life
that most of us could have probably never imagined just a few years before.
It was a world where parents didn’t have the luxury of worrying so much
about whether their children made friends, got along in school, or were going to
make something of their lives. They
were too busy worrying whether every time their child walked out the door he or
she might never come back.
tells the semi-autobiographical story of Tre (played as an adult by Gooding), a
bright but angry kid whose mother (Bassett) brings him to live with his father
Furious (Fishburne) at a young age. Furious
is loving but strict. His eyes are
open to the world around him, and he knows Tre’s only chance of making it
through alive and strong is to learn the hard lessons of life early.
the hood, there are two paths set before young Tre. One is represented by his best friend, Ricky (Chestnut), a
football star with dreams of going to college and making a better life for
himself, his girl, and his young son. The
other is represented by Ricky’s half brother, Doughboy (Cube), hardened by
experiences on the street and doomed to the kind of South Central existence that
Tre wants to escape. Surrounded by
guns, gangs, unhelpful police, searchlights and helicopters, one feels that the
avenues out of the hood are narrow indeed.
is one of the movies’ great father figures, in my opinion.
He teaches Tre how to be a man without needing to pick up a weapon and
joining the fracas. But even he can only guide his son so far.
When a crucial moment explodes, Tre has to decide and decide fast the
course of the rest of his life.
being vague about the story, I know…but it’s not so much that I don’t want
to give anything away; rather it’s that I could never tell the story as well
as John Singleton did. I don’t
think anybody can. I fully agree
with him: he was born to make this
movie. And he and his destiny came
together to leave an indelible stamp on modern cinema.
of his actors are incredible in this movie, as though each realized what kind of
statement they were making in front of the entire world, and it brought out an
extra element of passion to go with the talent. The sure handed veterans Laurence Fishburne and Angela
Bassett are wonderfully solid, but its Singleton’s young stars that make the
biggest impression. Cuba Gooding
Jr. would go on in future years to claim an Oscar.
Nia Long, Regina King and Morris Chestnut continued to do good work as
well. But perhaps the biggest
revelation was rapper Ice Cube, who showed the world something raw and special
his first time in front of the camera. His
final, quiet scene with Tre is one of the most resounding and heartbreaking.
himself went on to make a little Oscar history…to date, he’s still 1) the
only African American to be nominated for Best Director and 2) the youngest
person to achieve that honor as well. He’s
gone on to bigger movies in terms of backing and budget, and done well, but I
don’t know if he’ll ever come close to the emotional purity and magic of Boyz
N the Hood. It was just a
karmic case of the right artist with the right story at the right time.
He made his mark in history because of it.
Some films do a remarkable job at capturing the feel of a place, and I think this high definition transfer has done nicely with Singleton's vision of Los Angeles. The color schemes range from the warmth of the days to the cool of the nights, and the images come through with striking clarity and detail throughout, with only a touch of noticeable softness here and there.
It's great to finally hear a full surround remix of this track, and I won't miss the original surround at all. From the most tender spoken words to the terror of the gunfire, this DTS HD soundtrack delivers with dynamic range and potency. The subwoofer helps the music pump along, and the surrounds will occasionally make plain how unsafe this world is.
This disc features one of the year’s best commentary tracks, as Singleton generously
opens up and shares thoughts and feelings about his first movie.
Aspiring filmmakers should definitely take notes, as he discusses the
process of getting a project realized, how to make camera movement organic
within a scene, how to make the most of outdoor shooting when the light time is
limited, how to use sound to expand simple canvases, and more.
This is what all director commentaries should be like, and sadly, few of
them really are.
The remaining extras start with a brand new retrospective
documentary “Friendly Fire”. Singleton
is back, along with many of his stars including Gooding Jr., Cube, Fishburne,
Long and more, and members of his crew. Their
experiences in bringing the vision to the screen, filming on location, and the
critical and audience responses are all here.
are also two deleted scenes, including a chance to see Ice Cube share a sequence
with Laurence Fishburne, a number of trailers for this and other films, two
music videos, production notes and filmographies.
Finally, new to Blu-ray, is a look at the film's enduring legacy.
My review has come to an end, and I don’t know if I succeeded or not in expressing what I found so difficult to put into words. Boyz N the Hood is an American masterpiece, and one of the most important films of the last quarter century. That’s the textbook analysis. To go further requires first hand experience, and that experience is better shared with a knowing look and a handshake than with printed words and vocal descriptions.