Sony // 1991 // 112 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Clark Douglas // August 1st, 2011
Increase the peace.
"Any fool with a dick can make a baby. It takes a real man to raise his children."
Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr., Jerry Maguire) lives in a rough south central Los Angeles neighborhood, but he's been able to avoid being sucked into violent or dangerous activity thanks to the positive presence of his father (Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix). His close friend Doughboy (Ice Cube, xXx: State of the Union) has lived a considerably rougher life, moving in and out of juvenile detention centers throughout his childhood and immersing himself in high-risk gang activity. When tragedy strikes the neighborhood, Tre and Doughboy both feel compelled to respond. However, the wrong move could cost them their lives.
John Singleton opens his directorial debut Boyz N the Hood with a cold, hard statistic: one out of every 21 black males in America will be murdered, usually at the hands of another black male. That fact lingers over the following film like a shadow of death, as Boyz N the Hood attempts to provide a demonstration of at least some measure of the social conditions that produce such alarming statistics. The statistic also hovers menacingly over the characters in the film during scenes of peace and joviality, as we know that Singleton would not simply throw such information up there without elaborating on it.
In its opening and closing moments, the film pays explicit homage to Rob Reiner's Stand by Me, another story that affectionately recalls old friendships and childhood in a very specific part of America. Boyz N the Hood is indeed nostalgic at times, but the nostalgia is often melded with pain, anger, and frustration. Singleton loves the people of South Central, and hates the destructive social environment they are trapped in. Men like Fishburne's Furious Styles fight noble battles against the system, but such efforts are nearly in vain as long as the people in power refuse to enact changes on a larger level.
Though some may feel the film slips into conspiracy theory territory on occasion, Singleton makes the persuasive argument that we live in a world in which the notion of black people destroying each other is an acceptable part of life. At worst, such things are nurtured and encouraged by our complex social structure. At best, such things are simply ignored. I'm sure many of us have heard the remarks made by others when there's yet another story of a gang shooting on the news. It's often something along these lines: "Criminals shooting criminals. Good riddance, I say. The fewer thugs on the streets, the better." A black police officer in the film puts it a different way: "One less nigger we have to worry about," he says, bringing the subtext of such statements to the surface with blunt force.
Indeed, Singleton's film tends to use blunt force on a regular basis, which is usually a strength and occasionally a liability. This isn't a story that demands subtlety; it's a passionate cinematic sermon made for the purpose of making an impression on people. Singleton doesn't want to just provide you with a look at life in South Central, he wants to make the fact that these horrors are happening all around us every day an inescapable reality. Twenty years after its release, the world has made precious little (if any) progress in the areas Singleton addresses, which only adds to the movie's sting.
The cast of Boyz N the Hood is filled with names and faces we all know today, but most of them were nobodies (or at least little-known actors) at the time they were cast in the film. It's a little heartbreaking to see how terrific Cuba Gooding, Jr. is in the film, considering the kind of apathetic performances he's delivering in straight-to-DVD action/thrillers these days. Ice Cube also makes a strong impression in his acting debut; the first of several musicians Singleton would introduce to the acting world. Angela Bassett has a handful of excellent scenes as Tre's mother, and it's fun to see folks like Nia Long and Regina King making some of their earliest screen appearances. However, the highlight performance is undoubtedly Fishburne's, who brings such unwavering authority to his performance and has the assurance of an actor twice his age (Fishburne is nearly unparalleled when it comes to creating stern-yet-gentle authority figures).
Boyz N the Hood arrives on Blu-ray sporting a solid 1080p/1.85:1 transfer. Considering the film's age and its relatively small budget, I'm impressed by the level of clarity on display. Daytime scenes (which dominate the film) generally look excellent, marked by vibrant colors and strong facial detail. A moderate measure of natural grain is present, and a few scenes look a bit soft. Darker scenes suffer from black crush at times. Audio is strong throughout, with the engaging blend of sentimental scoring, R&B and hip-hop tunes coming through with strength. The few scenes of gunfire pop impressively, and dialogue is clear throughout. Supplements are ported over from the previous special edition DVD release: A commentary with Singleton, two retrospective documentaries ("The Enduring Significance of Boyz N the Hood" and "Friendly Fire: Making an Urban Legend"), some deleted scenes, two music videos and brief audition videos.
Twenty years after its initial release, Boyz N the Hood is still a potent experience. The Blu-ray release is strong enough to merit an upgrade.
Review content copyright © 2011 Clark Douglas; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 1.85:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (French)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (German)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Portuguese)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Spanish)
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (Thai)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 112 Minutes
Release Year: 1991
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Audition Footage
* Music Videos