Boyz n the Hood

'Boyz' being the operative word – with the film starting out by introducing the main characters as 10-year-olds in order to give us the deep background to how they turn out as teenagers. Parenthood is the deciding variable in their contrasting fates, notwithstanding the conspiracy theories about black neighbourhoods being filled with liquor stores and guns purposefully so that the people that live there can kill themselves. The Atticus Finch-like Furious Styles, played with a winning intensity by Laurence Fishburne, is the one who preaches this stuff to an unconvinced audience of hoodlums. But it's the example he sets to his son that proves more influential.

Even that is almost not enough. The film builds to a climactic choice Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr in his first role) has to make between avenging his friend and stepping out of the cycle of violence. The film expertly pivots from one turning point to another in the dilemma, and the ending is wonderfully balanced between them, with Tre refusing to disown a shell-shocked Ice Cube after his night-time bloodthirsty raid on a rival gang. They are brothers, even though their different decisions send one to university and the other to the grave.

John Singleton's picture is full of passion for the subjects and the culture he is portraying, although he is also pulled in two directions – between documenting the texture of life in South Central LA with its community barbecues and porch-side drinking sessions, and the urge to create a sweeping romantic coming-of-age story for the hero with a heart of gold. Although I found the vérité parts of the film more effective, there's no doubt that the artificial 'cinematic' elements contributed to the film's success (and two Oscar nominations).

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