Thursday, June 19, 2014
A realistic gritty portrayal of harsh gangster life
I have to admit I wasn't a big fan of this movie the first time I saw it. That was many years ago. It was too easy to compare it with Boyz in the Hood (1991). Boyz came out a little before Menace and dealt with very similar content: the gangster lifestyle in South Central Los Angeles. On first viewing I dismissed Menace 2 Society as a rip-off, nothing but another studio attempt to make money off the ghetto culture.
I was wrong. The comparisons are obvious. Boyz in the Hood was John Singleton's first film, and this was the Hughes Brothers' (Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes) first. They both are set in LA, and have tragic endings. Alright, they are a lot alike, but each takes a different approach in how they portray the main character. From the opening frame of Boyz (the CU of the stop sign) you know you are watching a film that is trying to give you a message: something to the effect that 'black on black violence has to stop.'
Menace basically has the same basic message, but the Hughes Brothers use a story instead of preaching. Menace 2 Society also came out shorty after the LA riots of 1992. Neither story incorporates those riots into the narrative, but Menace looks back at the Watt's riots of the late 1960's to set up why things are so fucked. After the fires went out, the drugs moved in, and things have been in a world of shit ever since.
The story starts with the main character, Kane (Tyrin Turner), and his homie O'Dog (Larenz Tate) buying 40 ouncers in a store owned by Koreans. Anger quickly leads to gunshots. Before he has time to react Kane is an accessory to murder when O'Dog busts a cap in the store owners. Things only go downhill from there.
Unlike the main character in Boyz, Kane actively pursues the gangster life. He has no problem with pulling the trigger to avenge the murder of his cousin, or beating down the sucka that puts the moves on his girl. He does have a problem with the senseless acts of violence that O' Dog perpetrates on innocents that get in his way. Like he says in the narration, "O'Dog is the American nightmare, a nigga that just doesn't give a fuck, a product of his environment." Kane's only role model is the prison system. It is clear that this gangster can't save himself, because he knows nothing but stealing and dope dealing. How is he supposed to raise a child?
Menace 2 Society like most other gangster films features a great soundtrack. If you like the gangsta vibe, you'll lap it up. Besides, the music helps set the tone for the story. Too Short even makes a cameo. MC Eiht also has a fairly large role as on OG showing the young homies how to execute revenge. Watch out for Samuel L Jackson, Jada Pinkett and Charles S Dutton.
This is a very well done, gritty film about gangster life and shows how senseless it all is ! Ironically, even after so many years, its still relevant too! Where Singleton went more artsy, the Hughes Brothers (Book of Eli) stayed more true to the game.