Menace II Society (1993)
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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.
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
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.
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.
The best film the Hugh-Brother ever made, simply a must see, you will love it!!!
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.
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 ...
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.
Hedeen's outlook: 9/10 ***+ A-
The best film the Hugh-Brother ever made, simply a must see, you will love 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.
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.
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.
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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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.
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.
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!