John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood is an intimate and timeless classic that’s as charming as it is incredibly raw and heartbreaking.
Deep in South Central, something is bubbling up. It’s been this way for a long time but of course, everything reaches a boiling point. South Central is a place with families, romances and a sense of comradery. However, it doesn’t take long before the gunshots and police sirens are heard. John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood examines life within South Central from the perspective of three young men in a world that’s already well aware of where they’ll end up.
Boyz N The Hood follows the lives of three young men in the ghettos of Los Angeles. Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is raised by his single father, Furious (Laurence Fishburne), who keeps him mostly out of trouble. Across the street from Tre are the Baker family. Darrin “Doughboy” Baker (Ice Cube) and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut), who find themselves struggling to keep out of trouble. As the trio all hit the age of 17, they all begin to wonder just what their future might hold.
When Boyz N The Hood was released in 1991, the film offered a raw point of view of life within the ghetto in ways that many films before it struggled to articulate. Tre, Darrin and Ricky are where the film’s charm, heart, humor and heartbreaking emotion all lie. We follow the trio as young children as their personalities begin to take shape and their roles in life begin to make themselves known. Tre, thanks to his father, mostly stays out of trouble but when the fear of potential parenthood and the trials and tribulations of adulthood begins to make themselves known, new problems begin to creep up. However, it’s not long until these issues become trivial as the very real possibility of losing your life from a single bullet begins to ramp up.
John Singleton directs the film with a certain authenticity but also a tremendous amount of anxiety. As the film ramps up to its heartbreaking third act, the roars of helicopters and police sirens can be heard. While Boyz N The Hood is quick to be a hilarious and charming piece of slice of life cinema, the bubbling tension underneath every moment is expertly crafted. In a sense, it’s a film where it acknowledges that the viewer is already well aware of where its narrative is going to end up. That’s not to say Boyz N The Hood is predictable. Instead, it’s a film that uses inevitability to its advantage.
All of the performances in Boyz N The Hood are incredibly strong but easily the star of the show here is Ice Cube as Darrin “Doughboy” Baker. Darrin is an extremely emotionally charged and intelligent character, which Ice Cube crafts into this incredibly hypnotic performance that completely absorbs you into his many monologues throughout the film. In a way, it’s a character that he was born to play and, as for his very first acting performance, showed just how talented he truly is as an actor. Another standout here is Laurence Fishbourne as Furious, who acts as the film’s moral compass of sorts. Though some of his monologues throughout the film could be percieved as preachy, Fishbourne’s portrayal of a man trying to raise his son right in a world of violence is one that makes for an incredibly emotional performance.
Boyz N The Hood is the kind of timeless cinema that only increases in its importance with each passing day. Sure, some of its filmmaking may come across as a little antiquated now. However, these somewhat dated moments are small parts of what is ultimately an incredibly raw and emotional experience to watch unfold. From beginning to end, Boyz N The Hood is an example of why cinema from a personal perspective is so important to keep intact. John Singleton made a film only he could make and while many have tried to recreate the excellence of what he made here, it has remained clear that Boyz N The Hood is still the best of its kind.
Boyz N The Hood is now available to watch on digital and on demand.