In to-day's world where every day there seems to be a new story about senseless killing by students or by police, the world depicted in 1991's Boyz n the Hood almost seems sane by comparison. But the film's essential point in how ready access to firearms is dangerously integrated into the culture of teenagers remains certainly relevant. At times the film indulges a little too much in characters who directly state arguments and some other characters are underdeveloped to the detriment of the story. But these shortcomings are eclipsed by the insight in some extremely effective scenes and characters and it makes clear how a kind of self-destructive psychology perpetuates itself in a community.
The best scene in the film is when, after a character is unexpectedly shot, his body is brought home and his family and friends react. One woman (Alysia Rogers) is holding a real crying child when she sees the body, which I thought was a mistake as it seems to restrain the actress' performance when she shows her sudden shock and terrible grief, but I changed my mind when Ice Cube's character, Doughboy, tries to take the baby from her to get the child away from the scene of trauma. The women won't let him touch the child and one even seems to blame him for the death even though he was nowhere nearby. But she recognises in Doughboy the culture of pride and violence that produced the killer.
A culture that's also perpetuated by the fact that Doughboy is shown that he has no place in this scene of grief. In his helplessness, the worst feeling he can have in a culture that intrinsically values people capable of independent power, naturally his next decision is to go off and attempt a revenge killing. He spends every day on the porch with his friends, talking about how they might shoot someone if the need ever arose, and now it's time for him to fulfil that role.
The film mainly centres on a young man named Tre (Cuba Gooding Jr.), who seems to be a peculiarly straight arrow with good grades and good manners, all attributed to his peculiarly responsible father, Furious (Laurence Fishbourne). In a scene where Furious meets Tre's mother (Angela Bassett) for lunch, she angrily tries to convince him he shouldn't think so much of himself even though, she says, he's a remarkable man who stuck by his kid when most men wouldn't. The scene ends up mainly just making Tre's mother seem more like a jerk, par for the course in the film's generally unflattering or vague depictions of women. Angela Bassett gives a good performance, though. I realised I find her voice really soothing, there's something about the way she flattens out her tone at the end of every sentence.
The costume designer seems to have had a surplus of this yellow material, it turns up a lot in the film, including one scene where two characters seem to be wearing shirts cut from exactly the same cloth.
I really like Laurence Fishbourne's ties, though:
In this scene he brings his son and a friend to a billboard to use it to illustrate his lecture on gentrification and the importance of keeping the neighbourhood black. A cross-section of the town slowly gathers around him; an old, well-to-do man and a group of delinquent teens. There's a distinct, heavy handed artificiality to the scene but it's hard to deny Furious' argument that the omnipresence of gun shops in the neighbourhood is a telling incitement to destruction from the people who might profit from death in the community.
Twitter Sonnet #1096
For Incan dreams a puzzle mirrored flashed.
The routes of feathered fears are stopped.
Through pinion wires, inky words are dashed.
The message was along the edges cropped.
A double plant was rooted in the skull.
Attached to diff'rent chairs, the lesson came.
Inspections spot the warped and pitchless hull.
The cruising face returned and just the same.
A sandwich held excess tomato sauce.
Surprising ease was found beyond the inn.
Computer dreams have rolled to gather moss.
The numbers grew beyond the weathered pen.
The crossing bars of blue and black release.
Behind the eye a burning dust increased.