Menace II Society

1993, Drama, 1h 37m

42 Reviews 50,000+ Ratings

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critics consensus

Told with grit and verve by the Hughes brothers in their feature debut, Menace II Society is a gangland epic that breathes with authenticity while steeped in style. Read critic reviews

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Movie Info

After growing up in the gang lifestyle of the Los Angeles projects, 18-year-old Caine Lawson (Tyrin Turner) wants a way out. Everyone around him, including his unpredictable friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate), is trapped in their lives of crime and violence. With the help of his caring teacher (Charles Dutton) and supportive girlfriend (Jada Pinkett), Caine plans to leave the city for good. But in a series of tragic events, Caine realizes that escape will not be easy.

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Critic Reviews for Menace II Society

Audience Reviews for Menace II Society

  • Aug 17, 2021
    A movie unafraid to exist in some truly complex spaces and does so in a relatively short amount of time. The ending is devastating, likely the result of how honestly the characters are drawn.
    Alec B Super Reviewer
  • Jul 02, 2013
    For every classic there is a companion piece that while lesser known is equal in terms of quality. "Menace 2 Society" is such a film that is a companion piece to "Boyz N The Hood". Both tackle the same thematic issues of crime among the youth in their harsh living environment, but in different ways. Whereas "Boyz N The Hood" is an inspirational story about overcoming the harsh living violent environment with family "Menace 2 Society" tackle the darker side of that criminal world. 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.
    Caesar M Super Reviewer
  • Sep 07, 2012
    Back in my days of school I heard of this film but knew nothing of it. It was commonly known as a 90's video nasty and was the talk of the town alongside other similar gangster films. The difference with these films over other horror video nasties was this genre was realistic and possibly influential to us kids, or so the grown ups said. 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!.
    Phil H Super Reviewer
  • Jan 19, 2012
    The 90s blacksploitation films have mainly been a dime a dozen if they aren't directed by a Singleton or a Lee and this is no exception. Little that we haven't seen elsewhere to more effect.
    John B Super Reviewer

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