Menace II Society Reviews
The film itself isn't exactly anything amazing really, just days in the life of some young street hoods as they commit crimes and generally arse about. What makes it so strong is the fact its so well made with amazingly good direction and gritty visuals you'd think an experienced directed was behind it.
So the fact this is a directional debut from the Hughes brothers is really quite impressive, the fact they managed to gather a damn good cast is also impressive. From Sam Jackson and Larenz Tate to Charles Dutton and Bill Duke, add to that many familiar character actors such as Clifton Collins in a minor role.
Of course the reason behind the films infamous rap is the brutal graphic violence and the fact the word 'fudge' is used about a billion times. I thought 'Robocop' was hard ass, this takes the biscuit! but what makes this so harsh is the fact its based on reality and probably many truths and stories. Whether or not it serves to inform youngsters about the wrong roads in life I don't know, I'm sure it will and does still shock but one could also say it may influence or possibly give certain youngsters bad ideas.
This is a huge debate and solely depends on the individual naturally, some will enjoy for the wrong reasons other won't, but the Hughes brothers deserve credit for exposing the cold facts that I'm sure many are sheltered from. To be honest I can see what the brothers are doing here but at the same time I can't help but feel they are also putting young blacks in a very bad light and not helping how other people look at them. One also can't help but feel the heavy use of racial language and much black v white propaganda also fuels the fire somewhat, but I'm looking at this from a British perspective.
Dated now of course but still able to shock with its explosive sequences. Much like the Wild West this film shows how cheap life can be (or still is) within certain areas of the US, but many countries have similar issues.
Scarily realistic performances from the cast (kinda makes you wonder if they have their own experiences), powerful moments of madness and all made very well without glorifying the story by making the lead character a hero. A story of self destruction that could easily of been avoided exposing the pity and futileness of these youngsters lives. Oh and Sam Jackson is much more terrifying and badass in this than 'Pulp Fiction', even for a five minute cameo!.
"ay, ay, nigga what da fuck i say? wit cheese, mutha fucka, wit cheese!"
O-Dog: What'd you say about my mama?
A ghetto drama about a young hustler who was equipped to have a better life if he was raised in a different environment. Instead, with the friends and role models available to him, the life of crime pays its tolls on him. The darker side of a coin that would have Boyz in the Hood on the other side. Some energetic performances and authentic dialog mixed with the very well handled visual style by the Hughes Brothers make this a very watchable film about unfortunate characters.
Tyrin Turner stars as Caine, the protagonist of the film. He is not much of a hero, though likable in a way. He spends his days as a young drug dealer, mostly going around the hood with his best friend O-Dog, played really well by Larenz Tate, who tends to lose his temper at nearly any situation. While not completely plot less, the film more or less lets us spend a few months with Caine, as he participates in some stupid crimes, learns a bit from the various mentors in his life, and essentially tries to come to terms with what he thinks it is to be a man.
Despite how vulgar and very heavy on the use of two particular words the film was, the way the characters living in Watts speak always rings true. Nothing in the way the characters act ever feels false. Its certainly a good way for the film to keep its tone together, as well as providing for bother very real and sometimes very humorous exchanges. This is especially the case for the dynamic between other characters and Sharif, the one character opting away from crime life, being educated, despite hanging with the rest of these people.
Sharif: What's up, black man?
Caine: Coolin'. Man, why you got that goddamn hood on your head, lookin' like the Grim Reaper?
Sharif: It's cold out here, my brother. You know us black folks not used to this cold air. We a tropical people, you understand? Let them Europeans deal with this madness.
Caine: Then why your tropical ass sittin' on the goddamn cooler?
Sharif: To keep you fools from drinking this poison. That's why.
Caine: Man, you better get your Shelenkem-Shilom ass up off this box and pass me a motherfuckin' brew.
Most impressive in this film was the direction by the Hughes Brothers. Twins who had come off of music videos at the time, they were only 21 when they finished making this film, and their work here is very impressive. The use of color schemes, camera movement, editing, and other visual tricks to keep up a certain momentum and hold together this film was interesting and intriguing throughout.
Its wandering story and overall depressing factors certainly don't make it a film I need to revisit anytime soon, but its made and acted very well, which certainly warrants it a good rating.
...Oh, and watch out for Sam Jackson's brief appearance with his Afro.
[Caine Lawson reflecting after being shot]
Caine: After stomping on Ilena's cousin like that, I knew I was gonna have to deal with that fool someday. Damn! I never thought he'd come back like this, blasting. Like I said, it was funny like that in the hood sometimes. I mean you never knew what was gonna happen or when. I've done too much to turn back, and I've done too much to go on. I guess in the end it all catches up with you. My grandpa asked me one time if I care whether I live or die. Yeah, I do. Now it's too late.
An enjoyable nostalgic watch, but nowhere near as good as I remembered it.
Menace 2 Society is about a young street hustler attempts to escape the rigors and temptations of the ghetto in a quest for a better life. The plot of the film takes inspiration from "Goodfellas". Showing the protagonist being introduced to the criminal lifestyle at a young age, learning the benefits looking to reap them for himself, the gangsters coming off as loose individuals despite their activities, and the consequences of the long term of effect in this lifestyle. The presentation of issues it tackles come in the form of protagonist Caine. Caine is one of best written character I've seen in a long time. We are able sympathize for his cause, but never get behind his action. Seeing him more as a person than film character as he is never presented as the hero or the victim. It's this balance in portraying his struggle that makes what the film has to say never become preachy. Never glorifying the criminal lifestyle nor undermine those involve in such activity.
The gangsters and characters that make up the story while filled with stereotypes is never problematic. You have the nut, the religious fanatic, the hustler, the insane drug dealer, the strong concerned single parent, and so forth. They are given enough depth be more than just cookie cutter characters to have an impact to events. The dialogue while not exactly requiring much brains to understand is pure realism. With conversations tackling more than just violence with pregnancy and realization of mistakes to name a few. Providing many powerful and memorable lines that will strike a chord with an audience. From subtle foreshadowing how caring about one's life to conversations about leaving your lifestyle. Along with humor into the mix among it's subject matter that never feel out of place. With writing that's deep and balanced makes this more than a great film, but a part of film history.
Tyrin Turner is our leading actor in his defining role as Caine. Turner had the difficult task of making his character likable, but not to the point we can support him entirely. On top that also portray someone consumed by the criminal lifestyle without losing his humanity. Turner more than just delivers a great performance he becomes Caine. He never takes his personal life too serious when it comes to business allowing Turner to be relax and joke around with his co-stars. When in discomfort in a situation he emote the appropriate emotion at a moment notice and voice over narration he gets across without coming off as tragic or relieved making him effective in the role. Larenz Tate plays Caine best friend making a great pairing for Turner. You'll never see the two as actors and instead see them as best friends. Larenz Tate plays more of a loose common, but well meaning character making him a an enjoyable screen presence. Being able to get out some laughs regardless of what happens and being solid in drama. Khandi Alexander plays a concerned strong single parent figure. Consistently acting on the dramatic side well; especially in one scene where she could have been dead serious about speaking to her son about Caine possible death choosing to take a more gentle approach instead. Samuel L. Jackson in his very small role is nothing short of spectacular.
Menace 2 Society is a powerful crime film that provide social commentary without feeling preachy. It never sacrifices characters to touch upon violence and the various issues that maintain relevant. The acting has no weak link with a defining performance from Tyrin Turner who's the backbone of everything right with the film. Rising above so many similar film like itself "Menace 2 Society" is a genre defining film with "Boyz N The Hood" and rightfully so is a part of film history.