BOYZ N The Hood" is another in a growing number of films that are about blacks and are written and directed by blacks. Put this down as one of the better ones.
The film is crude. It hasn't been cut that well, but it has strength and a story that holds the viewer's interest from beginning to end. It is also very well acted. The film takes place in South Central Los Angeles, and before it begins, we are told that male blacks have a good chance of dying by gunfire and that in most instances, they are murdered by other blacks.
The film begins when the principal characters are pre-teen. Like the boys in "Stand By Me," to which the new film has more than a few similarities, the children in "Boyz" find a corpse, a victim of the neighborhood wars. They and their older friends are almost casual about the discovery.
The pre-teens are also bullied by older youths who take a football away from them. Eight years later, the kids are grown. One is already a father but wants to make something of his life, and when a scout for a local college appears at his home, telling him the college would be glad to have him, once he takes his SATs, he agrees to do so.
His friend, meanwhile, is also hoping to go to college. His parents certainly hope he will, but it will be a tough road, one that will be busy with neighborhood fighting, some of which ends tragically. It is impossible not to be torn by all of this.
"Boyz" considers all elements of this particular neighborhood, its violence, babies having babies, the desperation, the lack of guidance, the sex, the responsibilities of father to son and the attitudes of some of the men toward women and sex. One man calls women "bitches" and other disparaging names throughout the film.
The cast of characters also includes an evil cop, a black policeman who behaves much like the sergeant did in "A Soldier's Story." He seems to think that by brutalizing and terrorizing other blacks, he will somehow make the neighborhood a nicer place.
Crack is discussed, and in this one instance, the film threatens to becomes preachy. The script may also be trying to pass the buck at times, but this is the way the writer-director, 23-year-old John Singleton, sees things, and he has every right to do so.
Singleton has a promising future in films. Give the man a little more money (he did the film for $6 million) and he will probably give us a much more polished product. Meanwhile, "Boyz," which is not without humor, is certainly good enough. In the end, though, it will tear you apart.
"Boyz 'N the Hood" opens here today. Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Tyra Farrell and Angela Bassett are in the cast.
"Boyz N The Hood"
** Life in South Central Los Angeles, where too many black men die at the hands of other black men.
CAST: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Tyra Farrell, Angela Bassett
DIRECTOR: John Singleton
RATING: R (sex, nudity, violence, language)
RUNNING TIME: 100 minutes