Saturday, August 8, 2009
Menace II Society. A
Gene Siskel put it best when he said, 'these guys (the Hughes brothers) really know how to make picture.' 'Menace II Society' is an unflinching, unsettling, blood soaked, profanity laced masterpiece that's even superior to 'Boyz N the Hood.' It's powerful stuff. This is a fictional story of something that is very real (perhaps more so in the 90s when the film was made) and very important. It's about the ghetto blacks who stood alone from the rest of society and formed wars with their adversaries with the mindset that gunplay is the only way to solve problems. The movie opens with Caine (Tyrin Turner), a high school drug dealer, and his friend Kevin buying beer in small dairy mart. When the store owner makes one small remark about Kevin's mother, Kevin takes out a gun and shoots him dead. He then steals the money and the videotape from the camera, and leaves. At first we're shocked, but then we find out that it's not abnormal behavior for them. Kevin is proud of what he did, as he proceeds to show off the video to his friends. The movie flashes back and gives us Caine's early days. His father was drug dealer, his mother was a drug addict. When he's only about eight he sees his father kill a man. Eventually his father gets killed and his mother dies from too many drugs. Caine goes to live with his grandparents, who don't attempt to protect Caine, but do their best to keep him on the right path. Caine isn't a terrible person. He's just a person who does terrible things. It's not entirely his fault. Normally in a movie like this, the protagonist might be someone who is afraid to get into the trouble. Someone who sees how terrible this life is. But Caine is just as bad as the others. This adds a sense of realism to the story. One of the best characters is Ronnie, played by Jada Pinkett. She has a son, but lives alone because the father, who happens to be Caine's idol, is in prison. While trying to raise her own son without the influence of the ghetto guys, Ronnie serves as a moral advisor for Caine. As Siskel said, these guys know how the make a movie. The Hughes brothers have obvious talent. They make every single scene interesting. 'Menace II Society' is an incredibly well-made motion picture. It works on all cylinders and is crafted to perfection. There are plenty of places where it could have faltered, but it never even takes a wrong step. It's a gangster movie, but it's also a portrait of this menacing society. The great thing about the movie is that it has a sense of morality, but it never lays it on the viewer too heavily. It keeps it simple, but makes its message clear: people will act like their peers. The society is irrelevant. It just so happens that this one is particularly tragic.