Boyz n the Hood is one of those films that I’ve always wanted to see and had always been meaning to, but for one reason or another it escaped me. Well, Best Buy selling it for $5.00 on Blu-Ray is enough for me to right that wrong.
Everything about this film is quintessential 90s and might be some of the definitive work of growing up in a black culture, surrounding by gang activity and trying to escape these hurdles and just making it out of your childhood to becoming an adult.
I’ll get my one criticism out of the way first, the film is very predictable and hits every narrative beat as it should, not leaving much up to the imagination of what’s to come first. But, ultimately that didn’t bother me all that much, because the film isn’t being made to trick you or surprise you at some great reveal. No, it’s detailing the lives of these friends who they are and what they aimed to achieve, we know what’s obviously down the tunnel for some and how the path down that tunnel may be shorter for others. The weight of these relationships still hold the power of each scene, and perhaps create a little more tension when you have a good idea as to what’s going to happen next.
The performances are really what makes the film and it’s not surprise. I’m not sure I’ve seen Cuba Gooding, Jr. any better than this. He’s simultaneously so vulnerable but very much wants to put up this front of how much a “man” he is in this neighbourhood that often demands you look like that on the “streets” in order to survive. Laurence Fishburne is imposing and demanding on his son, even making himself looking scary most of the time, but literally every ounce of this is out of love and the need to protect his son from the dangers of what he grew up with. Ice Cube obviously probably knows his role a little too well and players the high on himself wannabe banger with the correct subtleties and braggadocios. Nia Long also puts in some good albeit small work as the perfect picture of a 90s girlfriend that would make you want to drop everything and reroute your life just to spend five more minutes with her.
Even in 2014 it’s easy to see the effect this film had on the years following and its message is still sadly applicable in today’s world where much of that world from 1991 is the exact same almost 25 years later. The experience alone makes it a must watch.