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Growing up in South Central Los Angeles, Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.) is a young man desperate to escape the trappings of a violent life in the Hood. Guided by his strong father Furious (Lawrence Fishburne), who is determined to protect his son from the harshness that surrounds him, and by the powerful bond between himself and his two best friends, ex-con/gangsta Doughboy (Ice Cube) and his promising footballer brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), Tre is constantly at odds with the world in which he finds himself. But in a neighbourhood dominated by gangs, drugs, alcohol and automatic weapons, there are no guarantees, especially when it comes to making it out alive.

Review by Craig Miller:
Bridging the gap between cultural divides both in the US and around the world, John Singleton’s culturally and socially important feature film debut, Boyz N The Hood, relayed a powerful message about life and death in L.A.’s urban ghettos and forced people to look at issues that were all too easy to ignore from urban sprawl to racism, murder and everything in between.

A film school graduate four months out and only 23 years of age, Singleton used what he knew to tell a highly emotive story about a young man looking for a better future for himself, those he loves and his people.

Based around a series of actual events and circumstances from his own adolescent life, Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood is a wonderfully crafted achievement, visually rewarding and with a script that holds no punches, delivering its extremely complex story simply and honestly.

Singleton’s lack of film experience is in this case, a true saving grace, as he doesn’t get too caught up in a brand of stylized shooting or unnecessary and constant camera movements, rather using his innocence to keep the filming controlled and deliberate. A process which served him extraordinarily well.

In certain scenes, notably the barbecue celebrating Doughboy’s release from prison, every movement and every word is purposefully constructed, and although few significant story points occur, it is a brilliant introduction to the young adult lives of six of the film’s key characters, and is one of the films most memorable scenes. It would have been easy for Singleton to romanticize or significantly dramatize the life of his characters, but his commitment to delivering something real is rewarded 

Thanks to scenes like these we get a good feel for the performers, and this is where Singleton once again hits pay-dirt with some truly inspired casting and use of actors that deliver even in the smallest of parts. Cuba Gooding Jr. works tirelessly in every scene to portray the determined Tre, with Lawrence Fishburne (billed as Larry) as Tre’s proud father and Ice Cube as hardcore gangsta Doughboy both incredibly convincing in their respective roles, as are Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Nia Long in supporting parts.

Unlike many of its imitators, Boyz n The Hood is far from just a story about a selected African American community in L.A., it’s about all of us and what we choose as our life.

Information about the casting, the film itself and how it came about, can be found on the DVD’s only extra, which is an audio commentary from director John Singleton. If you are a fan of the film or just of film history, the commentary offers a fantastic look into Singleton’s life, and is easily one of the better DVD commentaries around.

Published April 15, 2004

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CAST: Lawrence Fishburne, Cuba Gooding Jr., Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell

DIRECTOR: John Singleton

SCRIPT: John Singleton

RUNNING TIME: 108 minutes

PRESENTATION: widescreen 1.85:1, 16:9 enhanced, Dolby Digital

SPECIAL FEATURES: Audio commentary with director John Singleton

DVD DISTRIBUTOR: Columbia Tristar Entertainment

DVD RELEASE: April 7, 2004

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