Cuba Gooding Jr. in Boyz in the Hood.
When this movie came out in 1991 it was a surprise hit for first time writer/director John Singleton. It helped spawn a new genre of movies showing the lives of young blacks living in inner-city environments rife with the horrors of gang violence, crack addiction and AIDS, all of which peaked in the early 90's. This movie, along with Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing, represent the best work of the genre.
Boyz n the Hood provided a launching pad for many black actors. Laurence Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Nia Long and Regina King were all relative unknowns before doing this movie.
The story opens in 1984. Ten year old Tré Styles moves from his mom's house to his dad's in inner-city Los Angeles. He makes friends with the Baker brothers; they live across the street. Ricky is the jock and Doughboy is the fat kid who's bound for trouble. In an homage to Stand By Me there is a scene where the boys go to see a dead body near some railroad tracks. This beginning section of the movie does a great job of introducing the various characters, all of whom will show up again later on.
From here the story jumps to the summer of 1991. Tré and his girlfriend Brandi are planning on heading away to college in the fall. Ricky is hoping a football scholarship will be his ticket out and Doughboy is just getting out of the pen. Several events lead to a tragic climax as these characters spend a pivotal summer together.
This movie is particularly impressive when you consider that John Singleton was 23 years old at the time and this was his first feature film. The story really grips you and though some of the dialogue seems a bit preachy today, think back to the early 90's. The murder rate in the urban areas of this country was at an all-time high. Singleton exposed the problem without glorifying the violence as some later movies would do.
Cuba Gooding is very good as Tré, but in my opinion Ice Cube is the real star here. He is the emotional center of the story. The morning after Ricky is killed Doughboy comes over to see Tré and he makes a statement about the news on television. “Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood. They had all this foreign shit. They didn't have shit on my brother, man."
It's the best line in the movie. Not because of the actual words but because of Ice Cube's somber, matter of fact, delivery and because we have come to know these characters so intimately. Boyz n the Hood is one of the most impressive writer/director debuts in Hollywood history.
Photos © Copyright Columbia Pictures Corporation (1991)