Menace II Society

Directed by twenty-year-old twins, Allen and Albert Hughes, this groundbreaking film goes beyond its docudrama setting in the L.A. hood to explore the roots of gangsta violence among its fatherless homeboys. The subject isn't "Who killed who?" It's "Who killed feeling?"

Caine (Tyrin Turner), 18, grew up in Watts. He saw his mother OD and his father murder and be murdered. Tyger Williams's blistering, insightful script shows how hate closes off avenues of escape for Caine and his posse. Caine is surprised but hardly remorseful when his friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate) blows away a Korean grocer over a minor insult. Asked to look after a friend's woman (Jada Pinkett), Caine teaches her six-year-old son how to handle a gun. The pass-along brutality strikes a raw nerve.

Nothing the Hughes brothers have done in their videos for Tone Loc, Tupac Shakur and others prepares you for the controlled intensity and maturity they bring to their stunning feature debut. They know how to pace a scene and give it shape and sting. They know how to feel their way into madness and come up with an agonizing reflection of a generation at war with itself. On a mere $2.5 million budget, they flaunt talent that seems unstoppable.

From The Archives Issue 404: September 15, 1983