Saturday, July 17, 2010

Menace II Society

Menace II Society opens with directorial flare in a scene of senseless violence and for the duration of this scene we think that the Hughes brothers are on their way to making a fresh and original hood film. Then, sadly, the flare fizzles, the violence continues without making a statement, and the movie falls back on cliches. Still it is a notch above other hood movies. It tells the story of Caine, a young man who has spent his whole life in Watts witnessing crime and violence by his parents, friends, and  neighbors. Somehow, he has managed to graduate high school and plans to move away with his locked up mentor's girlfriend, but the cycle of crime he is in as well as the poor influences of his associates, such as the brutal O-Dog, keep him from achieving and may lead to a more impending doom. When this was released in 1993 it came with the tagline "America's worst nightmare" and many hailed it as a ghetto masterpiece. Now, some of the initial power is retained but other parts seem just senseless and unfocused. Also it is hard to root for such an amoral unlikable lead, even though it is clear the film wants us too. The film is undeniably influential and thankfully put the Hughes brothers on the map who have made valuable films since. Still it is not quite in the same league as Boyz N The Hood which created a bleak ghetto landscape while populating it with characters you cared about. On the other hand, now that I know who Caine and o dog are, a lot of rap songs make sense so that's a positive.