Hood Movies

In the late 80's/early 90's, a new genre of black film sprang up, referred to as hood movies. Basically, these films are all about the reality of growing up in the ghetto.These tales are often compelling, sometimes comical, and usually end up tragically.

Above The Rim (1994)
D: Jeff Pollack
W: Pollack, Barry Michael Cooper, Benny Medina
P: Pollack, Medina, James Brubaker, Steve Greener, Mara Manus, Aaron Meyerson
S: Duane Martin, Leon, Tupac Shakur, Marlon Wayans, Tonya Pinkins
Rating: ***
Martin is Kyle, a star high school basketball player in New York who dreams of going to Georgetown. His life is complicated by his involvement with neighborhood gang leader Birdie (Shakur). Leon is Birdie's brother Tommy Shepard, a local basketball legend now working as a security guard, who goes out with Kyle's mom and takes it upon himself to steer kyle away from Birdie. Great performances by Leon and Shakur elevate this rather formulaic film into something above average. {C.H.}

Boyz In The Hood (1991)
D: John Singleton
W: Singleton
P: Steve Nicolaides
S: Cuba Gooding, Jr., Lawrence Fishburne, Ice Cube, Morris Chestnut, Nia Long
Rating: ****
This is not the first hood movie, but the first to really define the genre, before it all got stale and repetative. Gooding is Tre, sent to live with his father Furious (Fishburne), after his mom gets fed up with him. He hangs out with his buddies Doughboy (Cube) and Ricky (Chestnut), and after they run afoul of some gang-bangers, tragedy ensues. First-time director Singleton got an Oscar nomination for this film, and Fishburne and Cube (in his first acting role) both deserved supporting actor recognition for their performances. Overall, this is an excellent film, which does not glorify any of the violence it shows, unlike many of the hood movies that came after it. {C.H.}

Do The Right Thing (1989)
D: Spike Lee
W: Lee
P: Lee, Jon Kilik, Monty Ross
S: Lee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Bill Nunn
Rating: ****
This is Lee's masterpiece, the film that made him a star. Lee is Mookie, working at a pizza parlor in his Broolyn neighborhood, just trying to get by, while racial tension comes to a boil all around him, finally exploding in the films incredible conclusion. Aiello is the pizza parlor owner, and Turturro (in one of the few film roles I can stand him in) is his son. Husband and wife team Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee steal the film in smaller roles. This should be required viewing for anyone who wants to understand the racial powderkeg that is this country. This is also the film that started the hood movie trend, although it aspires to something greater than what the genre would become, and in that respect interesting parallels could be drawn between this film and Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song, which also inspired a genre (blaxploitation) generally not up to it's standards of excellence. {C.H.}

Hangin' With The Homeboys (1990)
D: Joseph B. Vasquez
W: Vasquez
P: Richard Brick
S: Doug E. Doug, John Leguizamo, Mario Joyner, Nestor Serrano
Rating: ***1/2
It's a shame that people might dismiss this film due to it's title, because it's really a a great film. It's a look into the lives of four friends one fateful night in Manhattan. Joyner is a work ethic devotee, Doug is a lazy bum, Serrano is a womanizing Puerto Rican pretending he's Italian, and Leguizamo is shy and inexperienced. As the night progresses, they take turns taking shots at each other, until their differences eventually tear them apart. I really felt this film, as I've been there, and I'm sure I'm not the only one who can remember one night when a long-time friendship blew up. Like most hood films the end is a downer, but in this case it's the anguish of lost friendships, not lives, which is a refreshing change of pace for the genre. {C.H.}

I'm Bout It (1997)
D: Moon Jones & Master P
W: Jones & Master P
P: Master P
S: Master P, Jones, Anthony Boswell, Silkk The Shocker, C-Murder
Rating: **1/2
This movie was put together by New Orleans No Limit Records rapper/mogul Master P. For his first venture into film, this movie ain't that bad. It's not fine art or anything, but it does have that Dolemite-esque "made from the heart" feel to it. In a semi-autobiographical story, P plays a New Orleans drug dealer trying to go legit and form a record company, while warring with a dirty cop (Jones). It went straight to video, so P ingeniously marketed it as being "banned in theatres across America". {C.H.}

Juice (1992)
D: Ernest Dickerson
W: Dickerson
P: Peter Frankfurt, David Heyman, Neal H. Moritz
S: Omar Epps, Tupac Shakur, Khalil Kain, Jermaine Hopkins
Rating: ***1/2
Epps is Q, a New York City DJ trying to make it big on the club scene when not hanging out with friends Bishop (Shakur), Raheem (Hopkins), and Steel (Kain). Needing money, and hepped up from watching too many James Cagney flicks, the four rob a conveniance store, but Bishop unnecessarily kills the owner, them kills Raheem in an argument over it. He frames Q for the murder, the hunts down Steel to quiet him. This mix of the hood genre with some Hitchcockian suspense elements is one of the better ilms of the genre, very exciting all the way through. {C.H.}

Menace II Society (1993)
D: Albert Hughes, Allen Hughes
W: Alb. Hughes, All. Hughes, Tyger Williams
P: Alb. Hughes, All. Hughes, Williams, Michael Bennett, Kevin Moreton, Darin Scott
S: Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett
Rating: **1/2
This film, for me, was the turning point for hood movies from serious cinema to mindless glorifications of violence. This film was severely overrated by critics (many of whom were probably afraid to criticize it, for fear of looking unaccepting to black cinema), and works better as a spaghetti western-style revenge tale than a serious drama. Much of the violence (including the killing of Korean conveniance store owners and a crackhead) is played for comedy. The film also steals the gimmick from Billy Wilder's Sunset Boulevard/. OK, it's not really a bad film, and it tries in spots to make a statement, but it's not nearly the poignant dramatic classic it's often made out to be. {C.H.}