One of the key works of American Black cinema of the ‘90s, this debut feature packs a punch in its depiction of race and violence despite occasionally wallowing in sentimentalism.
Cast: Cuba Gooding Jr., Laurence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut
Plot: Follows the lives of three young males living in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles, dissecting questions of race, relationships, violence, and future prospects.
Awards: Nom. for 2 Oscars – Best Director, Best Original Screenplay; Official Selection (Cannes)
Subject Matter: Moderate – Black Communities; Chronic Violence
Narrative Style: Straightforward
Audience Type: Slightly Mainstream
With Boyz n the Hood, writer-director John Singleton made Oscar history as not just the youngest person to be nominated for Best Director, but also the first African-American to do so.
At only 23 years of age when the movie was released, Singleton, unfortunately, failed to match the high of this achievement in his subsequent output, as far as critical assessment seemed to have suggested.
I have to admit that I went into Boyz without realising Cuba Gooding Jr. and Ice Cube were in it, but I was nevertheless impressed by their performances as Tre and Doughboy respectively.
Tre is a young man with ambition whose parents are separated (Laurence Fishburne and Angela Bassett play his father and mother respectively), while Doughboy is a neighbourhood friend with a bad attitude and an ego problem.
“Any fool with a dick can make a baby, but only a real man can raise his children.”
As the movie tagline says, this is “once upon a time in South Central L.A.”, where a trip to the grocery store might mean death as the town is riddled with gun violence. Blacks kill other blacks, a sobering point made by Singleton, with the failure of social mobility and education taking center stage.
Doughboy’s brother, Ricky, hopes to make it to college with a good SAT score, while Tre, through the influence of his father, tries to resist falling into a self-destructive cycle.
As one of the key works of American Black cinema of the ‘90s, Boyz is definitely worth seeing—it is also entertaining with lots of cussing, though it occasionally wallows in sentimentalism, which is not difficult to overcome if the characters and storytelling have successfully sucked you in.