Menace II Society is an effective look at the men and women of the ghetto in Watts County, L.A. in the early 90's, and how their upbringing around drugs, murder, and theft made them into thugs and gangsters, in many ways against their will. While this is a fictional tale, it's far from untrue. This is the life that many impoverished black men and women lived, mostly because society had already deemed them outcasts and this was all they had. And this is still true for a lot of people today. The film gives us a snapshot of one man's determination to not let the life that killed his parents destroy him too.
Caine (Tyrin Turner) is a young man from the ghetto who witnesses his good friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate) commit murder at a convenience store. From there, Caine starts down a dark path from which there may be no return, and by the time he realizes what he's become, the wheels are already in motion. It's a heartbreaking turn of events that inevitably ends in tragedy, and my only real issue with the film is the supporting characters. They're painfully unlikable for the most part. Honestly, the ending almost completely changed my perspective on the whole film.
Menace II Society is an important film because it shows the real ghetto and the real people who live and thrive there. There's no Hollywood lens and no movie stars. The Hughes Brothers used unknown actors who disappear into these characters and tell a contained story that in the end, just feels like another story from Watts. It's awfully sad, but you get it.
Menace ll Society is one of the most raw and poignant films I have ever seen. This is the Hughes Brothers' debut film, and they were just 21 years old. That young perspective is obvious in this film with our main character, Caine. The plot simply follows Caine’s life in 1993 Watts, Los Angeles.
At the beginning of the film, we see Caine and his good buddy, O-Dog run into some trouble at a convenience store. After that, we have a flashback to Caine’s childhood that tells us how he has always been in a dangerous environment, seeing things he shouldn’t see. It’s a brief, but very powerful introduction that clearly tells us that we’re about to endure a very serious story. The pace of this film is like something out of the 70’s. There’s never any chance to look away, as each scene is more devastating than the one before.
The characters never seem like they are made up, but instead they all represent bigger ideas in American society. Caine and his boys are victims to so much more than they know. There’s no room for sentiment here though, only constant reaction without reasoning. That’s the vicious cycle of living in the American ghetto. Where do you turn to when people have already made up their mind about you? Menace ll Society is an absolute must see, not because one performance is amazing, not because the cinematography is revolutionary, but because the authenticity of the story is bound to smack you right in the heart and brain.