Menace II Society Reviews
Although a lot nastier a poor Boyz N the Hood from The Hughes Brothers.
Its message and amount of detail is more than enough to warrant repeated viewings. It is, to put it bluntly, an important film.
It stands right on par with the equally masterful "Boyz N The Hood" as a film addressing this subject matter, but as a whole, it goes for a much darker direction.
real name! Greatest quote of movie: Nobody want your CLUCKHEAD
Caine Lawson is a young man from Watts who just graduated high school. Caine is also a drug dealer and hangs out with a crew includes his trigger happ best friend O-Dog, A-Wax, and his cousin Harold. Within a span of a few days we witness and urban nightmare as Caine goes through many trials and tribulations and even gets a few opportunities to leave his criminal life behind but in the end there aren't always happy endings in the gangsta life.
Menace 2 society is explosive and slightly more raw than Boyz N the Hood. This is definitely a film that has a slight historical focus from all of the watts riots and just how watts is a turbulent neighborhood like Compton. Overall incredible directing from the Hughes brothers. The writing is phenomenal. A truly well written urban tale.
larenz tate is veeery good here. he does well playing the kind of individual that caine deep down doesn't want to be but gets unfortunately influenced by to some degree. Tyrin turner was also really solid in his role of caine. caine is a young soul that gets corrupted by all the bad in his life after being given so many chances to get out. It takes so much for him to realize he wants to live. jada pinkett smith was really good here. she was like the one person who almost got through to caine
the lighting is really underated here and projects to the audience that caine is experiencing a living hell almost. The interrogation scene is without a shadow of doubt the best and most well directed scene in the film. bill duke did a fantastic job in his limited screentime and delivered that "you know you done fucked up" line enough times that he set the tone with that. well produced ending kinda surprised me.
Menance 2 society is a powerful, and tremendous film.
The Hughes Brothers, Albert and Allen, who directed and co-wrote the film with Tyger Williams, craft their film around two young black teens growing up in South Central Los Angeles. One is Kaydee "Caine" Lawson (Tyrin Turner), who's father was a drug dealer killed when he was only ten, while his mother was a heroin addict who died shortly after. He went on to live with his grandparents, though their strict, moralist attitudes rooted in religion didn't stop Caine from becoming a petty drug dealer like his father. The other young man is Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson, who shows his best friend Caine what he can really do when the two go to a Korean-owned cornerstore to buy malt liquor and the owners watch them suspiciously and nervously walk around the store. After the cashier makes a derogatory comment, O-Dog loses his cool and winds up shooting both the cashier and his wife before robbing the cash register and taking the surveillance tape. Just another day in South Central, it seems.
The film winds up showing the day-to-day life of Caine and O-Dog, which involves Caine nearly dying after being shot in a carjacking, as well as petty crime involving cracking cars for insurance money. We also get a glimpse in the life of Ronnie (Jada Pinkett), a single-mother with a young son she is desperately trying to shelter from the bleak environment and unrelenting violence that engulfs the neighborhood. Her character's introduction begins the Hughes brothers' descent into examining different perspectives of the neighborhood.
Consider the scene where Caine is playing with Ronnie's young son, who is clearly growing up fast for a five-year-old, as he loves to be able to hold Caine's pistol, drink liquor, and hang out with the crowd of older boys. Ronnie is disgusted by Caine's compliance with allowing her son to hold a pistol and hang with his friends as they sip some of their ostensibly endless supply of malt liquor and smoke marijuana. Caine claims that this is for the young boy's good, as this is a rough and rugged neighborhood that laughs at kids who are kept from witnessing the violence in such a miserable landscape. The Hughes brothers allow you, as a member of the audience, to judge for yourself on both perspectives and hear each of their characters out; it is because of this even-handed approach that we see that Caine's point, while holding weight, also shows the cyclical pattern of young black men getting incarcerated or killed at a young age due to violent crime or the solicitation of drugs, and we understand Ronnie's protectiveness as a parent, but wonder if that approach is also just buying time for another funeral.
Unlike O-Dog, who largely acts on impulse and what is good in the momentary, Caine has stable guardians to fall back on when he's in trouble. The problem is, the social pressures that fall on Caine throughout the entire film are louder, stronger, and frankly, more attractive than going to church every Sunday and praying to a "white Jesus," as one character claims. Caine, O-Dog, and their other friend Sharif (Vonte Sweet) frequently remark about how the church plays a big role in their community, but the allure of fast cash, luxury, and the pursuit of something bigger than themselves at their current place through dirty business all take prominence in their mind instead of trying to build some sort of fundamental moral compass.
The Hughes Brothers take a very liberal approach to Menace II Society in terms of crafting its characters. Unlike John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz N The Hood, a film that illustrates how and why you should care about its characters and why they are all smart men stuck in a hopeless situation, Menace II Society never gives you a reason to like Caine and O-Dog. By the conventionality of Hollywood cinema, we, the audience, should detest Caine and O-Dog for their criminal ways and their unconscionable resort to violence and immediate gratification whenever they get the chance. The Hughes brothers likely feel the same way, but they challenge us to find reasons for us to care about them throughout the course of the film, and see if we can find even some sympathy for their situations.
For much of the film, I didn't feel too sympathetic, until the third act, which takes a strikingly raw turn. Granted much of the film is captured with a gritty sense of realism, one doesn't really see the ugliness unfold until the third act, when karmic revenge circumvents and finds its lead characters unprepared to lie in the bed they've made for themselves. Menace II Society's only lacking feature is the Hughes brothers' directorial choices; the camera never seems to stay still, and either finds itself oscillating around the main characters in a 360 degree fashion or loosely tracks its location in a way that sort of oddly details spatial relations between characters and their surroundings when there's really no need to do so.
With all that being said, Menace II Society winds up using its narrative and directorial grittiness in a manner that's germane to its illustration of various character perspectives in how to deal with growing up in a tumultuous neighborhood. The end result bears all the pain, immediate gratification, and whirlwind of emotions you'd expect and winds up being one of the strongest dramas I've yet to see that details the hood in a painfully realistic light. Finally, it works to emphasize that while your drug-dealing and violent crime is indeed a menace to society, it's also makes, perhaps equally significant, a menace to yourself.
Starring: Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett, and Vonte Sweet. Directed by: The Hughes Brothers.