Title – Menace II Society (1993)
Directors – Albert & Allen Hughes (The Book of Eli)
Cast – Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett Smith, Samuel L. Jackson, Khandi Alexander
Plot – The L.A based streetwise Caine (Turner) has finished school and now finds himself struggling to escape his life in the hood, a life where murder, crime and friendships come and go with regular occurrence.
“It was funny like that in the hood sometimes. I mean, you never knew what was gonna happen”
Review by Eddie on 13/05/2020
Announcing the arrival of directing duo and siblings Albert and Allen Hughes, Menace II Society may feel like a product of its time watched in today’s day and age but its confronting look at life in the mean streets of the Los Angeles hoods is still an insightful and noteworthy expose.
Filled with more than a few movies worth of expletives, over the top and bloodthirsty violence and some acting scenes (particularly death scenes) that don’t quite stand up to modern expectations, Menace is a rough and raw product from the Hughes brothers but one filled with some genuine heart and a clear goal to deliver an unsavoury look at the sometimes oddly glorified gang life.
Telling the story of Tyrin Turner’s Caine, who seems to have a decent brain at his disposal and the care of his grandparents who want him to make something of his life outside of street hustling and drug taking, Menace sees Caine caught in a seemingly unstoppable cycle of bad decisions and life events as his friendship with the loose cannon O-Dog (played by a hamming it up Larenz Tate) leads him down a path destined for failure.
There’s nothing overly original about Menace’s plot of set-up and a few instances throughout the film feel slightly over-played or Hollywoodized but there’s enough authenticity and soul to the Hughes film that it ensures Menace can overcome these issues to be a socially relevant and necessary look at life in the shady suburbs of one of the worlds most famed cities.
Not as dramatically rich or character strong as heavy hitting classic Boys in the Hood or as well structured as Get Rich or Die Tryin or Straight Outta Compton, Menace feels like the type of small-scale effort that is restricted by a limited budget and tools at its disposal but the way it captures the time and place of Caine and O-Dog’s environment is commendable, as the two friends but different souls navigate their coming of age in a landscape that promotes violence as a way of life.
Not easy going viewing and not a film for light entertainment, this is in your face filmmaking with little to no nuances, which fits the bill for its subject matter in a matter of fact and necessary way.
Final Say –
Not aging as finely as some of its other 90’s counterparts, Menace II Society is still a unique and insightful look into the gang culture that many in the United States have refused to properly acknowledge for far too long.
3 Drive-Thru robberies out of 5