Revised Movie Review Assignment
Menace II Society Review
Bold, brash, and violent, Menace II Society gives the viewer a look at the chaotic world of innercity Watts in 1993. Directed by then 20-year-old twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes, who got their start in the industry on MTV, Menace gives the viewer a shocking look at the life of a young, black man as he struggles to escape the only life he has ever known. Widely regarded as a cinematic masterpiece, this formalistic film uses brilliant camera techniques including arc shots and aerial shots that enhance viewers’ experiences greatly, especially in action scenes.
Menace II Society has been criticized in the past for essentially depicting the ghetto in the exact way that neoconservatives would describe it, and while this is indeed the case, it is this depiction that makes the film so powerful as it holds nothing back in portraying what life was like for some in the ghetto of Watts in 1993.
Actor Tyrin Taylor plays a college-aged boy named Caine who must avoid the temptations of the ghetto lifestyle he has grown up surrounded by in an attempt to create a better life for himself and those he cares about then he was given the opportunity to have. Born the son of a drug-dealing father and heroin addict mother, Caine himself stumbles down a path of drugs and crime when he enters adulthood despite his efforts to stay out of trouble. Even while living with his religiously devout grandparents when Caine struggles to stay away from the streets, he is continuously influenced in the wrong ways by his friends.
Menace II Soceity highlights the struggle that people of color are faced with from the time they are born — racism. Caine is told by his teacher at one point in the movie that “Being a black man in America isn’t easy. The hunt is on and you are the prey.” As if being born to a criminal and drug addict and living in poverty weren’t bad enough conditions for a young man to grow up in, the constant feeling of having a target on his back because of his color adds a whole new dimension of hardship to Caine’s life.
While Caine wants to escape the lifestyle that he has been living, he sincerely sees no escape because of the limitations that have been put on him by society. Even when his girlfriend tries to get him to come to Atlanta with her and start fresh, Caine sees no escape from the life he is living, “Ain’t nothing gonna change in Atlanta. I’m still black, and Atlanta is still in America.” This powerful quote from Caine shows that just because he wants to get out of the “hood” and has the opportunity to do so, he still did not see moving as an escape from the life he is destined to live. What Caine really wants is an escape from the world of racism, which is impossible in America.
Menace II Society also delivers a powerful message about family and role models as the film documents the growth of Caine from child to adult and references multiple people who influence this process, including his father figure, an older boy named Purnell. From holding guns to drinking alcohol to witnessing murders at age five, Caine is repeatedly exposed to the wrong things throughout his childhood and has no mentor to show him what is right. Caine gets an opportunity to do better by his girfriend’s son, whose father tells Caine to “Teach him the way we grew up is bullshit,” a line that sums up the message of the movie as a whole.
The cinematography is well shot and the film marks an outstanding debut in the film industry for the Hughes brothers as directors.
Amassing ten times the film’s budget in earnings, Menace II Society deserves every last penny as it truly shines a light on social problems that needed addressing at the time of the film’s creation, but that still exist with great prevalence in today’s society. Menace II Society is a timeless film in that regard because, unfortunately, the issues that it addresses such as racism and unjust law enforcement are still just as in need of attention today. Overall, I would rate this movie 4.5/5 stars. It is an unbelievably riveting film with important messages. For more information on the film, check out this review: http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/menace-ii-society-1993