Menace II Society (1993) Poster

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powerfully good
Special-K8828 September 2002
Extremely brutal, but gripping and compelling story of a volatile, alienated young teenager (Turner) growing up in the violent atmosphere of the L.A. Watts District and—against the advice of family and friends—makes no effort to transcend the harshness and ignorance of his surroundings, instead choosing to head down a dead-end path. Violent, almost unbearable at times, but faultlessly acted by the cast, and filled with powerful, authentic scenes. Tate is an absolute powerhouse as Turner's younger, impulsive, and extremely cold-blooded pal. Obviously not for all tastes, but a monumental achievement regardless, thanks to a superior cast of actors. ***½
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8/10
An amazing debut for the Hughes brothers
Agent1022 May 2002
Warning: Spoilers
The Hughes brothers made quite a splash with this film, making one of the best inner city films since Boys in the Hood. While I didn't care much for the voice overs, the ending to the film proved to be bone chilling, especially after becoming so close to the characters who were killed. I felt Larenz Tate did an excellent job in his role as O-Dog. While too many people focused on the violence in the movie, it really wasn't the focal point. It was really more about how the characters were conditioned, how they became used to the concept to random violence. A solid film with some great performances.
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9/10
Menacingly Powerful, and Gritty Urban Drama
FrankBooth_DeLarge16 September 2005
Menace II Society is much more than your typical hood movie. It tells the story of young Caine Lawson, a teen growing up in Watts, California.

The opening briefly shows Caine getting caught up in a grocery store shooting with his friend. This was a chilling way to open the movie, as it shows how easy it is for someone in the ghetto to get caught up in the moment and kill someone. During the opening credits, we see footage of the Watts riots that took place during the 60's. Caine narrates the story of his life, explaining how after the riots, drugs came into effect, and affected his home life as a child. After loosing his parents on at the hands of drugs, he was sent to live with his Grandparents. His Grandparents love him, but they struggled to raise him and tried their hardest to keep him out of trouble.

Not too long into the movie, after we learn about Caine's early life, we see him graduate from High School. He hopes to leave the life of violence that surrounds him in his neighborhood. After falling victim to a violent car jacking, he is brought into violence and crime himself. As the story progresses, and things spiral downward for Caine, he ends up in a hell of a jam and tries to make a way out of it all.

This is an incredible movie. It perfectly balances the ugly crime life and murder of tough inner city neighborhoods, Caine's own personal troubles, police brutality, and drugs.

This is a powerful movie with a great story. It has a good message, but in some ways, I thought the film Boyz N the Hood showed the message in a better way. Menace II Society is more focused on the crime involved in inner cities, where as Boyz N the Hood focuses more on the family life of the characters.

This is an excellent film that you should see if you ever get the chance. It has a good message, and it has some very moving moments in it.

If you enjoyed this, I also recommend Boyz N the Hood, and you'll probably enjoy the Wayans brothers' spoof, Don't be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in the Hood.
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8/10
I thought killing those fools would make me feel good, but it really didn't make me feel anything.
Spikeopath5 September 2009
The directorial debut of twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, Menace II Society is a tough, no nonsense look at youthful black life in the Watts section of Los Angeles. The Hughes Brother's movie charts the hapless life of Caine (Tyrin Turner) as he seeks to escape the ghetto. The son of both a drug dealer (Samuel L. Jackson in a potent appearance) and an addict, Tyrin, surrounded by guns and a machismo culture, is tied to his friends and the way of life afforded him. Even as love and a chance of a way out arises with Jada Pinkett's (terrific) pretty Ronnie, it's doubtful if Tyrin will escape from the revolving door of death.

Menace II Society had a troubled beginning, refused a video certificate on the grounds of its profane language and brutally violent scenes, it has since gone on to be viewed as one of the finer exponents of anti-violence involving Black Americans. That wasn't always the case though, many critics in the 90s were prone to calling it a film that glamorises the lifestyle of "Hood" gangsters, but offered a saver of sorts by correctly saying it had realism in amongst the harshness. Certainly the dialogue and regional slang was refreshing to hear, thus affording "Menace" and its makers praise for keeping it real, so to speak.

Ineviatbly comparisons were (are) drawn with John Singleton's 1991 film, Boyz n the Hood. But although "Menace" is rawer, uncompromising and more visceral with impact, it lacks the intelligence of Singleton's film. Where "Boyz" had fully rounded characters, character with which to hang your hat on to, "Menace" is just a social group of youths we neither know or care about outside of the group, ego driven dynamic. When lead protagonist Tyrin is trying to deal with his inner conflict, we the audience are treated to standard run of the mill melodrama. The streetwise edginess that the Hughes' began their film with (the opening is nigh on horrific) has long since gone as they try to make a film that touches all the bases of Black Americana.

Easily the most realistic of all the ghetto films made, in fact the film at times feels like we are on a documentary drive around downtown Watts. Menace II Society, however brutal it clearly is, has loaded the gun and shot the bullet, only to see it narrowly miss the whole target it was aiming for. Still it's one hell of an experience though. 8/10
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9/10
Vastly unequivocal yet breathtaking
westen122324 January 2018
Menace II Society portrays urban hood life during the early 1990's perfectly and outstandingly. Unlike Boyz N the Hood, the film gives us an inner perspective on hood violence and the bloody consequences of certain individuals and may I say, they have done it fantastically. The cast members played their role momentously and their performances were exceptional, particularly Tyrin Turner and Larenz Tate.

Although the consistent violent scenes, the movie puts realism in several successful ways and that is why this is one of my favourite films of the 1990's. Powerful and poignant.
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Brilliant movie
Oliver198416 March 2000
Menace was a brilliant film. There are many reasons to it, but I think what makes it so special is it's sense of style. It proves effectively that a gritty street-drama doesn't have to look bad in order to be realistic. Instead of using hand held cams and grainy film the Hughes' shoot their film with style, influenced by John Woo, and action-comics.

The violence used is also excessive and very graphic. There are brutal beatings as well as bloody shootings, all shot much better than your average action-movie. Like as in Dead Presidents, the directors aren't afraid of over-doing anything. Through slow-motion and impressive camera manoeuvering they're making great, exhilarating action.

Well, besides the violence the movie is great in many other ways. The shootings and bloodlettings are just to make it more realistic, which is pretty much the goal of the movie. In heartbreaking detail the main characters narrate us through youth criminality, drug-dealing, racism and a lot of other nasty stuff. The voice-over works really well, making Menace a sort of black "Goodfellas".

The story is great, in some points resembling some greek tragedy, with a storyline used successfully in other movies like Carlito's Way, Goodfellas, American History X and many others. It's about changing your life in time, before it's too late. If you don't change in time, all your past sins will come back to you. The movie is hilarious, sad, suspenseful and very educational for those who think there is racial equality in USA.

The Hughes' are young, aggressive and untouchable film-makers who intend to show you the real world, and do it with style.
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One of the best movies in 1993
Gogetad17 October 2004
Menace 2 Society is in my opinion the best "Ghetto Gangster"-Movie of all time. So powerful, so strong. Perfectly showing the hard life young black people go through in the ghetto. The main-characters are Caine, and O-Dog. Caine, is not the typical gangster, he had a very hard childhood, with a dealer as father and a junkie as mother, but he doesn't want to live this kind of live and tries to change it. O-Dog is the opposite, a young man who's afraid of nothing and always has trouble with the justice. The movie shows us the road that both, including there friends pass in this strange world of drugs, violence.

The best film the Hugh-Brother ever made, simply a must see, you will love it!!!
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10/10
This is what is!
bubsy-317 August 2004
I saw this film the weekend it opened. At the time I was 33, a white male living in NYC. When I went to the theater, I noticed that most of the audience was Black and in their late teens. For some reason, they felt that this was a good "date" movie. When the movie began, and the Korean Grocery scene was presented, the audience went wild with comments like "Yeah, Yeah, Kill them!!". I must say I got a little nervous. But, as the movie progressed, I got absorbed in it. I liked Cane and I even liked O'Dog. When the movie ended, I started crying. I was embarassed. Then I noticed that the Black teenage guys around me were crying too. I applaud the Hughes Brothers for making a movie that is able to connect with so many people. I still cry while watching it on video. "Do you care if you live or die?"
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9/10
A electrically charged drama, Boyn N Hood on speed
videorama-759-85939130 March 2014
This is a more intensified version of Boyz n' hood, and more the better. Opening with a shocking double murder in a Korean convenience store, committed by a pair of black teens, the star performers of the show, this flick doesn't hold back on the out of control exploits and wayward youth of South Bronz, or more so the community known as Watts. We live in the shoes of Caine, one the youths from the convenience store, while his bad arse mate, Kevin, played by Larenz Tate, with raw intensity in this electrifying flick, was the murderous hand, on the account of the Korean clerk, making an insult regarding the teen folks. He really judges the two the moment they walk into the shop. When stealing the store camera/videotape, they watched it repeatedly where Kevin makes a sick comment about selling these babies for $9.95 There are some powerfully violent moments, eye for an eye kind of stuff, especially in it's fatal end, it's catalyst that has Caine sticking his wick into one too many girls. The bit where Caine got shot bad, and taken into the hospital where he's bleeding bad was quite tense. Despite influences from family and teachers, to choose the right path, it's wasted on Kevin, his fate truly something scary, where Kane could change his tune, which this is the want of the viewer. The fine Samuel L Jackson who briefly appears in flashback scenes was memorable, imprinted in my mind, when blowing away another guy at home at a card game, while getting friendly with his misses. Caine almost mirrors that scene later, giving a guy one hell of a pounding, for cracking onto girlfriend (Jada Pinkett) in a very strong performance I must say. The whole movie is very well made, and goes further than Boy's N Hood, with true moments of choking intensity and moments of heavy shock violence, especially Caine's shot scene towards the early part of the film. But too it's very potent. All of these things are what betters it.
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9/10
9 out of 10
KJMill253 August 1999
Ok let me be honest. When I saw this in the theatre I wasn't impressed. But I couldn't stop going back to see it. And then it dawned on me that this movie is indeed a great movie.

Compared to all of the other "hood" movies this is the best. It contains a message that indeed hits home. Your actions will come back to haunt you. Tyrin Turner and Larenze Tate played great and believable roles.

Of course everyone won't get this movie. But for those who do watch it I hope you get the message.
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9/10
Gritty and nihilistic answer to Boyz
kosmasp11 October 2017
Back then the Hughes Brothers would never even name Boyz'N'the Hood. Not just because it wasn't their influence, but because people like to compare movies. Especially when it seems like they are similar. And I say seem, because while the surface may suggest that, this is a whole different beast of a movie and a story.

This is way more gritty and no one will tell you that it is a feel good story. But the influence of Scarface and other movies of that kind are apparent. Like a Goodfellas tracking shot and many other things. The brothers may have been very young, but they knew what they wanted ... and they were lucky enough to get (most of?) it! Like the cast, but also the overall finance for the movie ... which brings us back to Boyz ... over the years they themselves came to terms, that their movie probably got green-lit because of the success of Boyz ... and that's not a bad thing.

And while this is down and dirty, like Scarface it's a warning, a tale of things that can and will go wrong. What goes around, comes around ... there's a lot to read into this, but the Hughes Brothers wanted show how things were ... and the influence of the movie was felt. Especially with other movies trying to copy or at least pay homage to Menace ...
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8/10
The Hughes Brothers' Menace II Society can be upsetting but still also worthwhile if you stick around to the end
tavm25 February 2012
Okay, after 20 years of reading and hearing about this movie by The Hughes (Albert and Allen) Brothers, I finally watched Meanace II Society on YouTube. Mainly about teen hood Caine (Tyrin Turner) and his life with fellow South Central L.A. pal O-Dog (Larenz Tate), among other events of that time, I found the whole thing a little upsetting with what I've now found out had the most use of the f-word of any of these black movies I've been watching these last few days, not to mention the constant violence. Still, it does get better when Caine's possible girlfriend Ronnie (Jada Pinkett before becoming Mrs. Will Smith) offers a possible out by moving out with her and her son Anthony (Jullian Roy Doster) to Atlanta. But then another girl he fooled around with named Ilena (Erin Leshawn Wiley) tells him she's pregnant and...oh, watch the film if you want to know. In summary, Menace II Society didn't really pick my interest until the last 30 minutes and I started to see it in a whole new light. So on that note, I highly recommend it with reservations.
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10/10
An Excellent And Powerful Hood Classic From The Hughes Brothers.
jcbutthead8613 March 2014
Menace II Society is an excellent and powerful Hood classic that combines terrific direction,a great cast and a fine score. All of those elements make Menace II Society a great Hood movie,one of the best films of the 1990s and The Hughes Brothers at their best.

Set in the South Central Los Angeles section of Watts,California,Menace II Society tells the story of Caine(Tyrin Turner),a street hustler who has just recently graduated from High School and is on the streets. Now,Caine is trying to survive on the streets of Watts either by starting a new life on the positive side or become a victim of the streets.

Menace II Society is a brilliant and unforgettable Hood movie classic that came out two years after John Singleton's landmark Hood classic Boyz N The Hood(1991)and if Boyz N The Hood is The Godfather of Hood Movies,then Menace II Society would be the Goodfellas(a film that The Hughes Brothers used as a template)of the Hood genre. Right from it's shocking and disturbing opening scene,Menace II Society is a film that pulls you into a dark,urban nightmare that pulls no punches and is a movie that offers no salvation or safe keeping. Despite the tragedy and sadness that was in Boyz N The Hood you felt that there was hope at the end,but in Menace II Society there is no hope or happiness and you will feel that nothing will be good for the characters. Where as Boyz N The Hood focused on a couple of good kids trying to survive in their neighborhood,Menace II Society gives viewers an unflinching look into the world of Watts,California showing world where most of the main characters are criminals and despite being surrounded by urban decay, violence and death don't seem to be bothered by it but embellish it because it is a way of life in the characters eyes and with some of the characters there is no other way. The carelessness and apathy of the some of the characters gives MIIS a nihilistic outlook that is bleak and at times reminds me of Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange(1971)and Tim Hunter's River's Edge(1987)two other films that also have a bleak overtone. What is also great about MIIS is the style of the movie is almost like a Film Noir whether's Caine's narration or the dark lighting that is in the background that makes the movie realistic and at the same time surreal and dream like. The violence in MIIS is shocking and very brutal with nothing being toned down for the viewers showing how violence is shocking and horrific and when the violence happens it will disturb viewers mentally and physically with it's intensity and power. The violence in MIIS is not meant to be fun or exciting but to send a message that violence keeps happening and it's an on going cycle in the hood and ghetto and the violence also sends a message that the things that you do can come back to bite you in a big way. The main character Caine is a fascinating one because we never know what to make of him as a character he's not a good person but he's not a bad person either he's neither a hero or villain because most of his actions good or bad make him a complex character with depth. Caine is a character who is smart as well and you figured that if it wasn't for him being a street hustler he could've been a doctor or banker but drug dealing and hustling on the street is all that he knew what to do. Even though we don't know Caine is a good guy or bad guy there were some scenes in the movie where we as the viewer have sympathy for Caine whether you agree with his actions or not and he is a character in the film that you will never forget. The ending of Menace II Society is amazing and in my opinion one of the most powerful and devastating endings I have ever seen on film and the first time you see the ending it will punch you in the stomach because the ending is something that you will never expect to be so intense and truly gut-wrenching. The ending in Menace II Society will stick with you after you watch it and is one of the reasons the film is a Hood classic. An amazing ending to a great film.

The cast is wonderful. Tyrin Turner is excellent as Caine,with Turner bringing sympathy and intensity to the role. Jada Pinkett is wonderful as Ronnie,a friend that Caine looks after. Larenz Tate is brilliant,unforgettable and menacing as O-Dog,Caine's trigger happy friend. Tate is charismatic and frightening in his performance. Vonte Sweet and Ryan Williams are great as Sharif and Stacy,Caine's good friends. Samuel L. Jackson is terrific as Tat,Caine's Father. Charles S. Dutton is outstanding as Mr. Butler,Sharif's Father who offers words of wisdom to Caine. Bill Duke is captivating as Detective,an officer questioning Caine. Glenn Plummer is incredible as Pernell,Caine's Father figure. Rapper Mc Eiht is good as A-Wax,one of Caine's friends. Clifton Powell does a fine job as Chauncey,a friend of the neighborhood. Arnold Johnson(Thomas Lawson)and Marilyn Coleman(Mrs. Lawson)are fantastic as Caine's Grandparents.

The direction by Albert and Allen Hughes(The Hughes Brothers) is amazing,with The Hughes Brothers always moving the camera and bringing a great visual style to the film. Terrific direction,Hughes Brothers.

The score by QD III(Quincey Jones III)is impressive and moody and matches the tone of the film. Fine score,Jones. There is also a great song by Mc Eiht called Streiht Up Menace which plays at the end. An outstanding song.

In final word,if you love The Hughes Brothers or Hood movies I highly suggest you see Menace II Society,an excellent and powerful Hood classic that you will never forget after watching it. Highly Recommended. 10/10.
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9/10
A Powerful and Great film from The Hughes Brothers
OriginalMovieBuff212 October 2004
Menace II Society is a film of power and a desperate killing spree just in a little neighborhood. The film was very good, on all levels this is sure the best Hughes Brothers film. I've only seen Dead Presidents and From Hell, which I thought were both good movies, but this is The Hughes Brothers best film and this is so far the best ghetto film I've ever seen. There was some flaws but the movie makes it out like there really isn't any. The acting was good, Tyrin Turner, I've never really heard of and Larenz Tate I've see in Dead Presidents. The action was good and the movie was extremely powerful. Overall, this was a very neat ghetto film by The Hughes Brothers.

Hedeen's outlook: 9/10 ***+ A-
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One of the best movies in 1993
Gogetad17 October 2004
Menace 2 Society is definitely the best "Ghetto Gangsta"-Movie of all time. So powerful, so strong. Perfectly showing the hard life young black people go through in the ghetto. The main-characters are Caine, and O-Dog. Caine, is not the typical gangsta, he had a very hard childhood, with a dealer as father and a junkie as mother, but he doesn't want to live this kind of live and trys to change it. O-Dog is the opposite, a young man who's afraid of nothing and always has trouble with the justice. The movie shows us the road that both, including there friends do in this strange world of drugs, violence and poverty.

The best film the Hugh-Brother ever made, simply a must see, you will love it!!!
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10/10
Shockingly Perfect
solid_pro30 August 2004
This movie is so good, I remember specifically the first time I saw it.

I was 17 years old, hanging out with friends, doing the things 17 year olds and the characters in the movie do, in a friend's backyard. On our way out to a movie theater, I ran up to the entertainment room to grab my jacket. As I entered, I heard the first line of "Menace" from a television which had been left on. In the 30 seconds it took me to put on my jacket, I was drawn into the flick.

As the first scene came to a close, my buddies came looking for me. It didn't take long for them to realize that we wouldn't be going anywhere.

At such an age this movie shocked and excited me. It left me in awe and on the edge of tears.

In my early twenties (and after I'd seen it several times), the movie made me laugh out loud. The clever dialog, even in tenuous situations, is genius. Cheeseburgers, anyone?

Now in my late twenties, I consider this a classic. Take your other gang movies and throw them out the window. Boyz n the Hood is the only one that comes close and that takes itself way too seriously. Everything else is just an imitation of this perfectly woven tale.

As long as you can tolerate the violence and not-so-clean language, check this one out. It's simply brilliant.
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10/10
Meaning in the violence
dee.reid27 January 2003
"Boyz N the Hood" was a landmark film and certainly is one of the best movies of the 1990s. This is true but it was too preachy in the execution of its main themes. Director John Singleton has never matched it (and probably never will) but has come close with such hard-hitting films as "Higher Learning", "Rosewood", "Shaft" and "Baby Boy". Don't get me wrong, I love "Boyz" and I know that Singleton is one of the finest African-American directors in Hollywood, it is just that I cannot get past the tiring preachiness that has become common in his films.

Now, you do not see that with the Hughes Brothers. They portray their films in a much more realistic fashion. One thing that has become a main criticism with the Hughes Brothers, is how they portray violence in their films. How else can you show violence in a movie without it looking completely fake? Just look at anything they've done and you notice how frighteningly realistic their subject matter is. Yes in this film, people are shot, beaten, and robbed, but it is done a brutal fashion that is realistic. If you've seen any music video or film that they have directed, you can easily make the claim that they are the best at what they do - portraying life as for what it is.

First look at "Menace II Society". This film upon its release in 1993, was instantly compared to "Boyz N the Hood". What separated the two, was their subject matter. "Boyz" focused on the positive side of living in the Los Angeles ghetto, which was South Central if I'm not mistaking. It also showed us Tre (played by Cuba Gooding, Jr.) who tries to survive, despite his harsh surroundings. He grows up with a caring father (Laurence Fishburne) and it also shows him with his friends, many of whom are doomed to the legacy of street violence. "Menace" shows us the other, darker side of that picture. The story focuses on Caine (brilliantly played by Tyrin Turner) and his life after graduating from high school. It goes without saying that Caine is a criminal, but we come to sympathize with him, even though there is no way we can support his actions. He's a product of drug-pushing/using parents, witnessed murder before he was ten, was orphaned sometime later, and is now living with his God-fearing grandparents. Throughout the film, Caine and O-Dog (Larenz Tate) commit numerous crimes. You may think that the Hughes Brothers are glorifying that criminal image, but in fact, they are condemning it. If they were glorifying Caine and O-Dog's actions, then the Brothers would not show us the consequences of those actions.

Now look at their music videos. I cannot describe any 2Pac videos because I haven't seen any, but I can describe the Korn videos, both "Here To Stay" and "Thoughtless". Now before I go into this, I'll say that I'm a huge fan of rap, but I also enjoy some metal, Korn being the biggest thing metal I listen to. At first I wondered why the Hughes Brothers would direct music videos for a band like Korn, and then I listened to songs on their newest CD, titled "Untouchables". Right there on the first track I realized the connection between Korn and the Hughes Brothers - the Brothers trademark of naturalness of everyday life combined with Jonathan Davis' angst-filled and sometimes violent lyrics, which often describe his childhood in school. In Korn's "Here To Stay" video, we are shown the band (Davis, Brian Welch, James Shaffer, Reginald Arvizu and David Silveria), silhouetted against a huge snowing television screen. Throughout the video, images of the band are intercut with footage of the Gulf War, C-sections being performed, the L.A. riots, the 1986 Challenger explosion, police chases, animals attacking other animals, and at one point during the video, we are shown a police a car with the numbers "666" on the roof. As a grand finale, we are shown a twelve year-old boy sucked into the television screen after coming into contact with it. The relevance here is not the band itself, but the Hughes Brothers direction. The end shows how images of violence and destruction in the news affect our youth, just like in "Menace II Society" with Caine, who was young and was exposed to the same conditions as the boy in the video.

In Korn's "Thoughtless" video, we're shown a seventeen year-old boy who gets revenge on his classmates by showing up at prom with a hooker for a date and ends with him vomiting all over his classmates, while his hooker girlfriend is laughing the entire time. Again, the Brothers are showing us violence in youth, but doesn't show us the consequences of the boy's actions. He wanted revenge, he got it, but is he truly satisfied? The connection with the Brothers here is like in "Menace", showing that there is always consequences and you most likely will suffer. In the case of the boy, he will most likely end up warped and needing psychiatric help.

The Hughes Brothers have come under heavy scrutiny for just about everything they've ever worked on. This is largely because as I've already stated that their work is often very grim, but people often miss the fact that their work is often very optimistic about everything they talk about. Caine could have moved to Atlanta, the boy in the "Here To Stay" video could have simply turned off the television, and the boy in "Thoughtless" could have put everything behind him and start over.

As an African-American person myself from Virginia and living in a middle-class neighborhood no where near any of the areas I've described, I can't say for sure how accurate these films are (nor the music videos), but I can say that the Hughes Brothers, John Singleton and Korn truly bring out a glimpse of what life can be for some people.
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9/10
Articulates being a menace to yourself in addition
StevePulaski8 February 2016
Menace II Society shows growing up in an impoverished urban area plagued by violence by detailing numerous different perspectives; compassion, aggression, resistance, compliance, brute force, contentment, and more. Various scenes in the film, which is largely a string of vignette-style events strung together rather than a fully formed plot, focus on characters discussing their motivations to either combat or work around the violence in their area, with some choosing to try and fight it by contributing to it, and others simply trying to function in a community that is more like a warzone.

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.

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.
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8/10
Great acting, choice of narration and directing.
nicolechan9164 October 2015
The film starts off with the murders at a convenience story, and introduces the voice-over narration of the story. I find that this voice-over does wonders at making the audience sympathize with Caine's character. He was born into this society, and therefore is not to blame for his actions and choices. Though his character is not as unpredictably violent like O-Dog, and is somewhat mild. He doesn't carry a gun, and his demeanour isn't that menacing. The voice-over helps to gain some insight into his thoughts and is thus more humanized.

Tyrin Turner does a great job portraying his character. As a young boy on the edge of adulthood and just out of high school, Caine has no direction in life, and even has trouble answering whether he cares if he lives or dies. The many close-ups show his confusion at times and at others, his indifference to violence, implying his slow immersion into becoming like O-Dog. O-Dog is represented as a bit of a psychopath with no remorse or conscience for life. It takes little to set him off and Tate does a fantastic job of portraying this terrifying character.

This film is well made and the directing shows it. The Hughes Brothers perfectly place juxtapositions of scenes together for maximum impact. The flashback comes in the beginning and establishes Caine's back story while creating sympathy for him. The composition of shots too are done nicely, and complements the way the characters tend to travel in groups.

There is a lot of violence in this though, and it serves to show a realistic representation but can be very brutal. As mentioned before, it takes very little to upset O-Dog and turn him loose. The swearing is also very apparent and not one sentence goes by without them. Sometimes whole conversations go by with just cursing.

Overall a very powerful representation of ghetto society, where importance is on staying together and protecting one's own. Masculinity is also obviously a very big issue as they constantly try to assert themselves through aggression and cursing.

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9/10
Better than Boyz'N The Hood
christophe923006 January 2013
When Boyz'N The Hood seemed sincere in its approach but a bit sugar-coated, Menace II Society appears to be more realistic regarding the violence that prevails in those neighborhoods.

The script cleverly avoids any manichaeism, and shows well, with a certain fatality, how difficult it is for these adolescents to escape the violence and chose another path that the one that seems to be written for them from their birth.

Carried by convincing actors and well directed, Menace II Society turns out to be really striking and will remain for a lot of people THE best ghetto movie.
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9/10
Like Clockwork Orange
Jakealope17 October 2005
Warning: Spoilers
it avoids the "we're victims of the man" attitude that most mainstream blaxploitation films spout as some sort of social conscious to paper over the action, this one presents the character and action raw. It reminds me of clockwork orange where you are invited into the private, sick world of the "protagonist", You kind of like him, in spite of the fact that he and his friends are despicable and self centered louts of no redeeming social value. It doesn't fall for the usual socio-rationalizations; these guys didn't have it so bad and they deliberately turned their backs on society and morality. The worse thing about their lives are the role models, most of them despicable but his kind Xtian grandparents, friends and sensible girlfriend make a futile attempt to get him to turn his life around. The men chose the wrong path and were willing to face the consequences. The action was intense and senseless; murders over stupid insults or petty theft. Even KayDee, goes from bad to worse after being the first in his family to graduate high school, as a functionally illiterate drug dealer though. He does a small stretch in county jails then carjacks a man for his car, jewelry and then makes him buy him a burger, at gunpoint. Ole Dog, his murderous og friend, was played by Larenz Tate with a fine fury. The characters are presented as human beings, evil ones, not stereotypes, ones you could sort of care about but never excuse or admire. That alone makes it worth watching.
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10/10
An Intense Hood Film.
powermandan1 January 2017
Boyz N the Hood is the quintessential hood film. But Menace II Society is the more violent version of it. Menace II Society deals with less fortunate characters that in Boyz N the Hood. Luckily, they are just as fleshed out.

The movie opens up with protagonist and narrator Caine (Tyrin Turner) loitering with his best friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate) and about to buy booze in a convenience store. One thing leads to another and O-Dog brutally kills the owners. The scene is played out perfectly as we feels the shots fired. O-Dog is the most sadistic and violent guy in the hood. Like Joe Pesci in Goodfellas or 2Pac in Juice, there is no beating the psycho known as O-Dog. He is proud of the kill and he flaunts the surveillance tape to their friends. Tate does an awesome job.

Caine's mother was a junkie and his father was a drug dealer. He witnessed his mother OD and his father get brutally killed when he was a child. He then goes onto live with his religious and overly- calm grandparents. He witnesses so many violent activities in the streets and partakes in half of them. Throughout the film, we see Caine progress into a more ambitious and less crazy character. He doesn't think too much of cheating on his girlfriend (Jada Picket-Smith) or sticking with his friends if a rival gets in their face. But he feels shock when O-Dog kills the clerk and the he is questioned about a carjacking. It is not easy for him to escape what has consumed himself his whole life.

This is an extremely brutal but powerful film. Not everybody has a well-meaning father like Fishburne in Boyz N the Hood. The brutality featured in this helps propel the power that this has. The characters are real and this does an amazing job of showing one's consequences. Caine eventually grows to try to live a better life outside the hood. We sit there wondering if he can.

I recommend watching this and Boyz N the Hood. Doesn't matter the order or even if its in the same day. Both show perfectly the effects of living in a ghetto and different home lives.

4/4
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10/10
great story
mr_bigshot200313 February 2006
this no holds barred hood movie that tells a story of choices that you have to make in life (whether to go the right or the wrong way)is a well adapted version of some of the thing s that young teenagers went through around those times in the ghettos of l.a . The great thing about this film other than the great acting is the captivating storyline and the fact that the director do sen't try and glorify violence or crime he portrays it in a way of the youngster Kaydee simply following what he was told from when he was a youngster and not knowing anything better than that.As it shows you when Kaine was younger he did not have a positive role model hes role model was Pynell a street gang banger who gets locked away and then years later when Pynell is locked up and Kaine is older Kaine is right there doing the same thing Pynell done when he was his age . This movie should be shown to every teenager who thinks street life is cool 10 out of 10 for this one.
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9/10
Brutal and powerful
zetes17 March 2013
I have seen the other really famous movie about gangs in South Central L.A., Boyz n the Hood, a few times before, but I had never given this one a chance. One reason is that I always found Boyz a tad corny. Menace II Society has a few corny moments, too, but, in general, it's a lot better than Boyz. The film follows Tyrin Turner as a young man who is being drawn further and further into gang life, especially by his best friend Larenz Tate, a true psychopath who thinks nothing of murder. Jada Pinkett (before she married Will Smith) plays a responsible woman who tries to save Turner by taking him to Atlanta with her to start a new life. The violence in this picture is truly shocking - just absolutely nasty and brutal. I was surprised by just how powerful this one was. Tate and Pinkett are the stand-outs in the cast. Samuel L. Jackson has a small role, as does Charles S. Dutton.
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Intense and Graphic to the core
raysond11 February 2005
The first ten minutes of one of the most graphically violent films of 1993,the urban drama from the debut directors Allen and Albert Hughes' "Menace II Society" begins with a teenaged boy named Caine(Tyrin Turner)watches as his friend and gangbanger O-Dog(Larenz Tate)coldblooded with no remorse what so ever gunned down a innocent Korean couple who runs a Liquor Shop in Watts,a suburban part of South Central Los Angeles,California. Unlike his friend O-Dog,Caine Lawson wants to leave his way of life,but he can't see a way out of a gang lifestyle that may either have him send to prison or be killed. Fellow gang member Sharif(Vonte Sweet)is the son of a teacher,Mr. Butler(Charles S. Dutton),who lets Caine know that education is one way out. Another gang member Stacy(Ryan Williams),receives a scholarship to play football at the University of Kansas,and he asks Caine to go with him. And Caine's girlfriend,Ronnie(Jada Pinkett-Smith),tries to persuade Caine to moved to Atlanta with her. Despite these possibilities,Caine has been worn down by a life filled with guns and drugs,violence and death. Unsurprisingly,he's fatalistic about his life,if he ever has a chance to HAVE a future,but if he wants to make a change in his life is one way out of a hellish world of the ghetto.

The directorial debut of Albert and Allen Hughes,who are twins were only 21 years of age when they made this film. However,the film was a huge success and became a winner in so many ways making their equally compelling follow-up film,1995's "Dead Presidents",again starring Larenz Tate,who became a superstar in his feature film debut in "Menace II Society" and from here gives one of the most shockingly electrifying performances ever displayed in a motion picture. His character of O-Dog was just that....menacing to the point and extremely raw. This movie may audiences squirm in their seats when they went to see this film,due to the huge amount of disturbing images of realistic bloodletting,explicitly graphic content and strong intense violence,and the raging sound of its raw persuasive language which also included scenes of nudity and sexual situations. What makes "Menace II Society" so intense was its deep understanding of each and every character,more than justifies their take-no-prisoners approach to film-making. This was gives the film its sheer intensity that penetrates that insight into the comptemporary society,and this film delivers.

WARNING: The last five to ten minutes of the film is very graphic,and its not for the faint of heart,and when this film came out in 1993,audiences looked at this as one hellva bloodbath!
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