Tyrin Turner may not have broken out into stardom as was initially expected, but his work in Menace II Society
is one of the more powerful cinematic debuts. The film, from the brother writer-director team of Allen and Albert Hughes, chronicles life in the Los Angeles 'hood. Similar territory was covered in the equally commanding Boyz N the Hood
, but what makes this cautionary tale stand out is not only the Hughes brothers' forceful story, (written with their friend, Tyger Williams) and direction, but the naturalness of then-newcomer leads Turner as Caine, Larenz Tate as O-Dog, and Jada Pinkett as Ronnie. They are so credible--occasionally frighteningly so--that the repressive universe of violent ghetto life is captured effectively. Life as portrayed here-and no doubt accurately so--is both figuratively and literally narrow. As a very young boy, Caine witnesses his dad murdered over something inconsequential, and his mom OD. His is a world where respect comes from intimidation, power from violence. Despite his understanding of right and wrong (values passed on by a good friend, his kind grandparents, a caring teacher), his life and its entrapments are too much to overcome. --N.F. Mendoza
The controversial debut film from the Hughes Brothers. Despite his violent and unsettled upbringing in the poverty-stricken Watts area of Los Angeles, Caine dreams of going to college or moving to Atlanta with his girlfriend Ronnie. However, on a visit to a local grocery store with homeboy O-Dog, Caine becomes involved in a series of brutal killings and his dreams of escaping his violent background evaporate immediately.