Release Date: October 4th, 1991 Directed by: Russell Mulcahy Written by: Steven E. de Souza, Fred Dekker, Menno Meyjes Music by: Alan Silvestri Cast: Denzel Washington, John Lithgow, Ice-T, Kevin Pollak, Lindsay Wagner, Sherman Howard, Mary Ellen Trainor, John Amos, Miguel Sandoval, Jesse Ventura
“I guess a Beretta in the butt beats a butterfly in a boot, huh?” – Nick Styles
Man, this may be the most Fred Dekker movie ever put to celluloid. It’s got his fingerprints all over the story and Steven E. de Souza’s script really encapsulates the spirit of Dekker’s style. Beyond that, the director, Russell Mulcahy, then turns everything up passed eleven! I’d say he turned it to about seventeen!
I haven’t seen this since it was a new movie on VHS but I’ve got to say that even though I remember enjoying it, I didn’t realize how over the top and crazy it was. I guess that’s because this was fairly normal for an early ’90s edgy boi action flick.
Seeing greats like Denzel Washington and John Lithgow clash in this was fucking incredible, though! These guys brought their a-game, their balls and then, I’m assuming, shot a bunch of steroids and extra testosterone into their man bits. That’s the only way I can really explain their intensity in this movie.
This is a high octane action thriller from the very beginning. It follows a young cop that takes down an extremely violent criminal in the first few minutes. The cop becomes a hero and a bit of a celebrity and eventually starts working for the district attorney’s office. He ends up getting married and has two daughters. All the while, Lithgow rots in prison, fighting and murdering other prisoners, waiting for his chance to escape and get vengeance on the cop that put him there.
Once out of prison, the criminal creates an elaborate plot to break the cop down, destroy his personal life, his career, pump him full of heroin and have him get raped by a hooker with an STD. This story goes to some dark, bonkers places.
In the end, Denzel sets his own trap by utilizing the gangsters he grew up with. The big, legitimately awesome finale takes place on the famous Watts Towers. The finale is fucking great! Especially, for those who loved these type of over-the-top, bar pushing action flicks of this era.
All in all, this is far from a perfect film and it has its flaws but it is perfect escapism, chock full of that “toxic” masculinity that modern Hollywood loathes.
Rating: 7.5/10 Pairs well with: other cop thrillers of the ’80s and ’90s.
Also known as: Teen Agent (UK, Denmark, Japanese English title) Release Date: March 9th, 1991 (Los Angeles premiere) Directed by: William Dear Written by: Darren Star, Fred Dekker Music by: David Foster Cast: Richard Grieco, Linda Hunt, Roger Rees, Robin Bartlett, Gabrielle Anwar, Roger Daltrey
Warner Bros., 88 Minutes
“I knew I should have taken Spanish.” – Michael Corben
I can understand why this film wasn’t a big hit in theaters but I never understood why it didn’t catch on once it came out on video. It’s one of those films that should’ve been a cult classic because it’s just a ton of fun and Richard Grieco was immensely talented, especially in this sort of production.
Sadly, this flopped hard and Richard Grieco didn’t become the superstar that many thought he was destined to become coming off of 21 Jump Street and his own spinoff series Booker. I liked both those shows, liked Grieco and was pretty stoked when this was coming out, as I also loved goofy teen comedies, loser rising to the occasion stories and spy flicks.
This seemed like a perfect formula for my twelve year-old self in 1991 and fuck it, it totally was! I loved it and copied the VHS tape that I rented. I’d then go on to watch it quite a bit but since then, it’s been lost to time and sort of just faded away and pretty quickly.
I found myself thinking about it, recently, so I looked to see if there was a DVD release and there was. When I looked some time ago, it hadn’t yet been released in that format. So I bought it and threw it in the DVD player the same day it arrived.
What I was most happy about was that this held up really well. I mean, it definitely feels like a product of its time but it wasn’t an awful movie that I simply liked because I was a twelve year-old idiot. The main reason is because Grieco has charisma, charm and he just comes across as cool, which is something lost in most modern films.
This is the epitome of mindless, fun escapism and it was a hell of a lot of fun escaping into it in 2020, a year that almost all of us would love to forget.
Beyond Grieco, I loved the women in this, especially Linda Hunt and Robin Bartlett. Both of them really got to ham it up and they appeared like they were having a real blast making this movie. Hell, Linda Hunt is an Academy Award winner and she still performed in this “low brow” comedy with gusto and real passion.
This also looked like it cost a pretty penny to make, as the special effects and stunts were top notch stuff, especially for the time. Now this wasn’t James Bond level but it obviously had a budget much higher than your typical teen comedy flick.
I also learned that this was written by Fred Dekker in the ’80s with the intention of it being a starring vehicle for Anthony Michael Hall, capitalizing off of his fame from multiple John Hughes movies. I’m sure that would’ve been a pretty awesome film too but I’m really happy with how this turned out, regardless.
It sucks that this wasn’t a big kickoff to Richard Grieco’s film career but he’s got nothing to be ashamed of, as this is a film I’ve loved for decades and was really happy revisiting nearly thirty years later.
Rating: 7.25/10 Pairs well with: other goofy teen movies from the late ’80s and early ’90s.
“She’s some bunny isn’t she? Great to see her again, it’s been years. But I never forget a face… especially, if I’ve sat on it.” – Decker
I actually didn’t even know about this movie until the scene I’ve linked below came across my YouTube suggestions while I was looking for some other Christopher Walken clips for something else completely unrelated.
That scene is pretty incredible and maybe the most Walken thing that Walken has ever done. Once I saw that this long lost flick also featured Charlie Schlatter and Josie Bissett with small roles for Joanna Cassidy and Richard Kind, I knew that I had to check it out.
This was a straight-to-VHS release and while it’s not a very good movie, it’s pretty entertaining for those who love Walken and late ’80s/early ’90s crime thriller schlock.
All-American Murder also dabbles into horror due to the dark nature of its plot, the crimes committed and a few sequences that almost play more like a slasher flick than a hard-nosed, gritty crime picture.
The plot is damn clunky and it became predictable pretty early on but it’s still fun to watch the absurdity of the story unfold.
Ultimately, I loved Walken in this and being that he’s one of my all-time favorite actors of his generation, I could see this bad movie becoming one of those guilty pleasure flicks that I feel compelled to revisit every few years or to show others that come over for a movie night that want some solid cheese and over-the-top Walkenisms.
Most people may be bored shitless with this movie. But those are the type of people I don’t talk to about film.
Rating: 5.75/10 Pairs well with: other crime thrillers from the era.
*instead of the trailer, I’ll just share this scene, one of the best in Christopher Walken’s decades-long career.
Release Date: July 3rd, 1991 Directed by: Brian Levant Written by: Scott Alexander, Larry Karaszewski Music by: David Kitay Cast: John Ritter, Michael Oliver, Amy Yasbeck, Jack Warden, Gilbert Gottfried, Laraine Newman, Ivyann Schwan, James Tolkan, Martha Quinn, Zach Grenier
“Junior’s getting worse, we can’t even figure out what he did to that dog!” – Ben Healy
If you like Problem Child, you’ll probably like Problem Child 2, even if it’s not as good. If you don’t like the first film, then just skip this.
This is not a bad film in spite of it’s 4.9 out of 10 on IMDb, it’s just a film made for its audience, which isn’t made up of many people, especially nearly thirty years later.
This is a goofy, crude comedy but it’s that type of crudeness that worked really well for me when I was a kid. Even know, it’s over-the-top moments like the carnival ride vomitpocaplypse still play really well. It’s intentional hokiness is still funny. In fact, I was actually impressed by it, seeing it all these years later, as I couldn’t believe how far they pushed the bar and how much time and effort went into that massive gross-out gag.
The story is also good in that it isn’t really a re-tread of the previous film. Sure, at it’s core it is primarily about a kid that likes to be a total dick but it introduces a good foil for him. It also changes the setting, focuses a lot on John Ritter’s Little Ben looking for a new woman and it also focuses on the importance of family and friends.
Plus, I absolutely love Jack Warden and Gilbert Gottfried in these movies and they give us some really good shit, here.
Problem Child movies are simple, mindless, fun films. This one is no different in that regard. I think it lacks some of the heart of the original but the end sort of pulls you back in, as the characters you care about seem to find what they were looking for and what they need.
Ultimately, these weren’t movies that were made to be classics, they were just made to entertain people in a time where everything wasn’t offensive and we could laugh at bonkers, absurd shit.
The film is juvenile but it’s supposed to be. Back in the day, that worked for me. Seeing it now, it still works, as it brings me back to that place. But with that being said, I wouldn’t expect this to mean much to a person watching it for the first time in 2020.
Rating: 5.5/10 Pairs well with: its predecessor and crappy sequel.
Release Date: April 26th, 1991 Directed by: Daniel Petrie Jr. Written by: David Koepp, Daniel Petrie Jr. Based on:Toy Soldiers by William P. Kennedy Music by: Robert Folk Cast: Sean Astin, Wil Wheaton, Keith Coogan, Andrew Divoff, Denholm Elliot, Lou Gossett Jr., George Perez, T.E. Russell, Shawn Phelan, R. Lee Ermey, Jerry Orbach (uncredited)
Island World, TriStar Pictures, 111 Minutes
“Great, the school gets taken over by terrorists and I’m still on pots and pans.” – William “Billy” Tepper
I thought this movie was pretty badass when I was twelve years-old. I mean, it’s still okay but it hasn’t stood the test of time very well. Plus, I think at twelve, I still believed that being a real G.I. Joe was an obtainable life goal.
Toy Soldiers like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue before it, sees its teen stars pick up arms to take down some corrupt, evil motherfuckers.
In the case of this film, the teens’ military school is taken over by a Colombian drug cartel because the cartel’s leader’s daddy is being held captive by the United States government. The reason he chose the school was because the son of one of the U.S. government officials is enrolled there. However, he was pulled out of the academy just before the evil shitheads arrived. So the bad guys already suck before the ball really gets rolling.
Anyway, we see a pretty solid cast of Sean Astin, Keith Coogan and Wil Wheaton (before he totally sucked) work with their other buddies in an effort to stop the drug cartel and take their school back.
The adult officials in the movie are also pretty solid, as they’re played by Louis Gossett Jr. Denholm Elliot and R. Lee Ermey.
Seeing this now, almost thirty years later, all the film’s extra excess of cheese is very apparent. Sure, I noticed it when I was a pre-teen but having just come out of the ’80s, cheesiness was still at the forefront of American pop culture. So was patriotism and kicking foreign ass, as we had just won the Cold War, conquered mainstream communism and were embroiled in the first Gulf War. Also, for kids my age, we had guys like Hulk Hogan, Sgt. Slaughter and “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan preaching to us about the awesomeness of Americana. Don’t talk to me about Slaughter becoming an Iraqi sympathizer because that wasn’t real, you imagined it.
So the movie is still enjoyable in spite of its goofiness and its awkward stars trying so hard to be tough guys. It’s hard to buy into, especially when you see little Willy Wheaton shooting a machine gun on the steps of the school, only to be gunned down in an effort to give this meaningless movie more meaning.
As mindless entertainment goes, you could watch much worse. This is a pretty forgettable film but it had some good young actors for its time. I only wish it would’ve been retooled into a Pauly Shore movie because that would’ve taken it to a whole other level.
Rating: 6.25/10 Pairs well with: other teen soldier movies like Red Dawn, Iron Eagle and The Rescue.
Also known as: Highlander 2 (unofficial title) Release Date: January 31st, 1991 (Germany) Directed by: Russell Mulcahy Written by: Peter Bellwood, Brian Clemens, William N. Panzer Based on: characters by Gregory Widen Music by: Stewart Copeland Cast: Christopher Lambert, Sean Connery, Virginia Madsen, Michael Ironside, John C. McGinley, Allan Rich
“Most people have a full measure of life… and most people just watch it slowly drip away. But if you can summon it all up… at one time… in one place… you can accomplish something… glorious.” – Ramirez
How do you follow up a pretty awesome and unique film that didn’t need a sequel?
Well, you completely fuck everything up and produce a cheap, trashy, nonsensical, unnecessary clusterfuck and release it on the world!
Highlander II: The Quickening is a complete bastard of a motion picture and one of the worst sequels in history. But I’ll explain, as there is actually a lot to pick apart with this piece of rabid, foaming horseshit.
The biggest problem with this, more than anything, is the plot. Instead of the Immortals just being an unknown cosmic mystery that just exist, this film turns them into space aliens from a far off planet. The ones on Earth were basically exiled away for whatever reason and they must fight until “there can be only one”. That “one” then wins “The Prize”, which is now, essentially, a trip back to their home planet. I mean, what in the absolute fuck?
And that doesn’t even get into how secondary that whole plot point is, as the film spends more time focused on trying to take down an energy shield that was created by MacCleod to replace the o-zone layer, which was destroyed by pollution. Never mind that the Earth looks even more polluted and somehow this energy shield wrecked the world’s economy because it’s convenient for the plot, which needed this film to be set in a cyberpunk dystopian future.
I think I’m retelling this right but this picture had an effect on my brain where it made me feel completely smashed without actually sipping a drop of alcohol. I’m still immensely hungover from this cinematic swill.
It honestly feels like the filmmakers were given a script about o-zone layers and energy shields that wasn’t even related to the Highlander mythos and they decided to rework it just to throw the Highlander name on it and to bank on getting Sean Connery in this flaming turd.
The second worse thing about this picture is the acting. Almost every character in this, especially the baddies, acts absolutely and utterly insane. And not in a good way that the film calls for. It’s like they rounded up all the villain actors and locked them into a prison cell made out of cocaine, which they then had to snort their way out of. Well, except John C. McGinley, he’s actually really dull by comparison when looking at Michael Ironside and those flying, primal weirdos that look like they’re from an ’80s Norwegian industrial band.
On the flip side of that, Christopher Lambert and Sean Connery are also really dull. Lambert plays this like he’s a charisma vacuum while Connery makes sure that the audience understands that he doesn’t endorse this film and just needed to buy his wife a new house.
I guess Virginia Madsen is the most likable person in the movie but she’s completely drowned out by all the fuckery going on around her.
The third worse thing is the special effects and the general aesthetic of the movie. They’re deplorable by 1991 standards and this looks a lot cheaper than the first film. I mean, they’re embarrassingly bad. Almost every sequence in this film looks like a cutscene from an early ’90s cyberpunk PC game. You know, back when they would hire really inexperienced actors to act out live action scenes with terrible effects and dystopian sci-fi sets all around them.
I could go on and keep picking out more negatives but this motion picture doesn’t deserve to have a novel written about it.
I’d talk about the positives but honestly, there aren’t any. And that’s not me being a dick, there really isn’t anything I can pull out of the bottom of this Port-O-Let and say, “Well, this little nugget here isn’t total shit.”
In the end, it was really hard to sit through this and I honestly don’t know if I can get myself to sit through the three sequels after this one. From memory, this was the worst in the series but I don’t have very fond feelings for the others, either.
Rating: 2/10 Pairs well with: the other Highlander sequels, none of which come close to the cool and original first film.
Also known as: The Adventures of the Rocketeer (Australia) Release Date: June 19th, 1991 (Hollywood premiere) Directed by: Joe Johnston Written by: Danny Bilson, Paul De Meo, William Dear Based on:The Rocketeer by Dave Stevens Music by: James Horner Cast: Billy Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino, Terry O’Quinn, Ed Lauter, James Handy, Jon Polito, William Sanderson, Margo Martindale, Clint Howard, Melora Hardin, Tiny Ron Taylor
Walt Disney Pictures, Touchstone Pictures, Silver Screen Partners IV, 108 Minutes
“That son of a bitch will fly!” – Howard Hughes
It’s been close to three decades since I’ve seen The Rocketeer, as I saw it in the theater in 1991 and once on VHS just after that. I hadn’t seen it since but I have always had pretty fond memories of the film. Now that it’s on Disney+, I figured I’d revisit it.
The film is actually much better than I remembered and I’m surprised that it didn’t leave a big enough mark on me to inspire me to buy it over the last 29 or so years. But I feel like the things I appreciate about it now are mainly due to my age and the lack of imaginative filmmaking that closed out the 2010s.
It feels very much like a 1990ish live action Disney movie but it reminds me a lot of Dick Tracy because of the period it takes place in, as well as the Indiana Jones films due to the involvement of Nazis, as well as being full of adventure, action and very ’30s-’40s pulpy elements.
The film is actually based off of a comic book character and that character was created as an homage to the rocket-backpack heroes of the old serials like Commando Cody.
The Rocketeer greatly benefits from having a large, great cast. Many of these people I didn’t even realize were in this, as I saw this in a time where I probably wouldn’t have recognized many of them. The bulk of the acting duties, however, fall on Bill Campbell, Alan Arkin, Jennifer Connelly and Timothy Dalton. All four are pretty good in this and Connelly, who’s never not been beautiful, looks like an old school Hollywood starlet from the silver screen era.
I loved Dalton in this, as the villain who is one-part Nazi stooge and one-part Basil Rathbone. His role as the actor within the film was really neat and a cool idea for a bad guy. He’s slimy and vile but you also kind of feel for him, as he’s being forced into evil by the Nazis. But don’t get me wrong, he’s still a total bastard and a great one at that.
The special effects, for the most part, hold up well. The only shots that looked odd were kind of unavoidable, as this was made in a time where you could hide things on celluloid film. This wasn’t made for the digital HD era, so there are a few bits that look wonky in a way that they probably didn’t in 1991.
From memory, this film was kind of a dud, financially. It should have been the start of a franchise for Disney but it didn’t connect with a large enough audience and we only ever got this one film. When I was a kid, I was really looking forward to more of these, as well as more Dick Tracy. Part of me kind of hoped that they could’ve crossed over but none of my dreams for these films materialized.
If you’re going to cancel Disney+ because The Mandalorian is over, you might want to give this a watch first.
Rating: 8/10 Pairs well with: other early ’90s family action movies, most notably Dick Tracy.
Also known as: T2 (promotional abbreviation) Release Date: July 1st, 1991 (Century City premiere) Directed by: James Cameron Written by: James Cameron, William Wisher Music by: Brad Fiedel Cast: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Linda Hamilton, Edward Furlong, Robert Patrick, Joe Morton, Earl Boen, Jenette Goldstein, Xander Berkeley, Dean Norris, Mark Christopher Lawrence, Nikki Cox, Michael Biehn (cameo – Special Edition and Ultimate Cut)
“[narrating] The unknown future rolls toward us. I face it, for the first time, with a sense of hope. Because if a machine, a Terminator, can learn the value of human life, maybe we can too.” – Sarah Connor
When I was middle school aged, this film hit theaters. At the time, I thought it was just about the best movie ever made. At that age, it appealed to me more than the superior original but I think that’s because I was roughly the same age as John Connor and I was living vicariously through his experience in the film.
The thing is, this is still an utterly stupendous motion picture and one of the best that James Cameron has ever done. But, as an adult, I can’t put this over the masterpiece that is the original film.
Still, it is an incredible film and a great thing to experience, even for the 38th time watching it. Honestly, I may have seen it more than that as my VHS copy broke years ago.
It’s been a long time since I’ve revisited this classic, though. But this was the first time I watched the Special Edition, which added in new scenes and longer cuts. The most important of those is a scene where Michael Biehn returns as Kyle Reese in a dream Sarah Connor has while still locked up in the mental hospital.
There is also a cool scene that shows John defy his mother in order to spare the Terminator that is protecting them. It’s actually a good character building scene that probably should have been left in, as it shows John’s natural leader personality come through and it also amplifies Sarah’s paranoia about working with a Terminator.
The only other notable addition is a scene that shows Miles Dyson and his family. This probably should have been cut but it is nice to see him trying to balance his personal life and work life.
Everything in this movie still holds up today. While the special effects might not be as impressive in 2019, they don’t look bad and for the time, they were lightyears ahead of what anyone else was doing. And it was those great digital effects that made the villainous T-1000 exist and frankly, he is still one of the most terrifying villains in movie history. But I have to give credit to Robert Patrick for that, even if its the effects that allowed him to come into being.
All the practical effects are top notch too, from the opening sequence of the war from the future and all the makeup, prosthetic and animatronic work they had to do for Schwarzenegger’s Terminator in the second half of the film.
But getting back to the acting, it’s a mixed bag, really.
Linda Hamilton has never been better. Also, Schwarzenegger is pretty perfect but this version of the Terminator character is written in a way that doesn’t require much from him other than what is naturally present in his real personality. That’s not a knock against Arnold, as much as it is a nod of respect to James Cameron for giving us a more human cyborg that is trying to become something more than just a killing machine. The script and the dialogue written for Arnold enhance his strengths and don’t force him to have to deal with his weaknesses. Frankly, it enhances the overall experience.
Now Edward Furlong did okay, being that this is his first film but I felt like his performance could’ve been fine tuned more. When I was a kid, I didn’t give a shit, I thought he was cool. As an adult, I see some of the problems with his acting but at the same time, he’s far from terrible. Where it sometimes doesn’t work really isn’t his fault either. James Cameron should’ve just stepped in more and helped the kid. But then, I also don’t know how many takes were shot and its possible that these were just the best they could get and had to move on.
I mentioned that I like the first movie the best but this one does a much better job of world building and in that, this feels like the most complete and overall satisfying film in the franchise. Where the first film feels more like a sci-fi slasher movie with guns instead of knives, this feels more like something akin to the epic world building of Star Wars or The Lord of the Rings.
This film certainly has the most to offer in regards to the franchise as a whole. And since nothing after has really come close to its greatness, there isn’t much reason to watch the films that follow. Besides, they all start contradicting each other and this franchise has been rebooted three different times because it became a giant mess.
Eventually, I will get around to the other films just to review them. I already reviewed Terminator: Genisys when it came out back in 2015 but I haven’t revisited Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines or Terminator: Salvation since they were in theaters. Plus, I’ve still got to watch the TV show but I’ve heard that it’s actually pretty good.
Rating: 9.5/10 Pairs well with: the first Terminator film. Ignore the sequels after this one.
Also known as: Sgt. K (script title), Yakuza (working title) Release Date: August 23rd, 1991 Directed by: Mark L. Lester Written by: Stephen Glantz, Caliope Brattlestreet Music by: David Michael Frank Cast: Dolph Lundgren, Brandon Lee, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa, Tia Carrere, Professor Toru Tanaka, Al Leong
Little Tokyo Productions, Original Pictures, Warner Bros., 79 Minutes
“Listen, will you do this right? Clean? Like a cop in the 20th century, not some samurai warrior? We’re gonna nail this guy. And when we get done… we’re gonna go eat fish off those naked chicks!” – Johnny Murata
This is one of those movies that came out when I was middle school age and I didn’t know about it because it never came to my local theater. But once I caught wind of it on video, I would rent it almost bi-weekly for about a year.
First of all, this features Dolph Lundgren and Brandon Lee, as buddy cops out to stop the Yakuza in Los Angeles. Plus, the Yakuza in the film were led by Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa!
So this was like Ivan Drago teaming up with the Crow to kill Shang Tsung!
Plus, this had Tia Carrere in it and I was crushing hard on her back then. And what made this especially awesome was the nude scenes. Sure, I now realize that she had a nude body double due to how those moments were shot but when I was a kid, as far as I knew, I got to see one of my dream girls naked.
This is pure late ’80s/early ’80s toxic masculinity at its absolute finest. This is a balls out, violence festival with solid humor, hot chicks, martial arts and explosions. What more could a middle school boy want in 1991? And frankly, what more could a grown ass man want in 2019? Just because a bunch of crazy busybodies frown upon escapism like this in modern entertainment, doesn’t mean that I have to change to appease people that I don’t even want to talk to.
One thing that I always loved about this film is how the white guy is completely immersed and influenced by Japanese culture while the Asian guy is pretty much just some dude from the Valley. Granted, the Asian dude from the Valley knows a good amount of martial arts.
Additionally, Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa was dynamite as the Yakuza boss that the good guys had to squash. Tagawa just has that look that makes him feel like a genuine evil bastard. He spends a great deal of his most badass moments, shirtless, showing off his Yakuza tattoos. He just feels like the final boss of a side scrolling beat’em up arcade game from the same era.
I love this damn movie. For what it is, it’s pretty close to perfect. Lundgren and Lee both have charm, solid charisma and it sucks that Lee died because I could’ve watched countless sequels to this movie. But then again, Hollywood rarely gives us sequels to movies like this unless they were Cannon Films properties.
That being said, this is probably the most Cannon film that wasn’t actually made by The Cannon Group.
Rating: 7.75/10 Pairs well with:Commando, Rapid Fire, Black Rain, Tango & Cash and Dark Angel.
Release Date: May 13th, 1991 (Cannes) Directed by: John Singleton Written by: John Singleton Music by: Stanley Clarke Cast: Ice Cube, Cuba Gooding Jr., Morris Chestnut, Larry Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Nia Long, Tyra Ferrell, Redge Green, Dedrick D. Gobert, Regina King, Jessie Lawrence Ferguson, Whitman Mayo
Columbia Pictures, 112 Minutes
“Why is it that there is a gun shop on almost every corner in this community?” – Furious Styles, “Why?” – The Old Man, “I’ll tell you why. For the same reason that there is a liquor store on almost every corner in the black community. Why? They want us to kill ourselves.” – Furious Styles
Boyz N The Hood was a movie that had a pretty big impact on me in my middle school years. I was going into 7th grade when it came out but by the time it hit video, I rented it a lot.
What lured me into it was the edge the film had with Ice Cube in it, a rapper I listened to almost daily back then. But beyond that, I was pulled into John Singleton’s unique knack for storytelling. While this is well acted, a lot of the story and emotion comes through in more of a visual way.
Unlike many of the “gangsta” films that came out after and were inspired by this and Marion Van Peebles’ New Jack City, this one is truly a masterpiece on just about every level. And, once seeing this, it is easy to understand how this film gave birth to a new genre in the early ’90s.
To start, the acting by just about everyone in this picture is superb. The main cast delivers their performances with passion and gusto.
I love how in your face Ice Cube can be but there is a subtle gentleness under the surface that really comes out in his final scene, which is still maybe the best he’s ever been onscreen.
Cuba Gooding Jr. gave a somewhat understated performance that worked really well for his character and when the point comes in the movie for him to show real emotion, it has an impact that might have been lacking without his cool and chill demeanor leading up to it.
I also like Morris Chestnut, who is mostly just a regular guy here. He’s got issues but he’s a guy with a bright future, which makes his fate in the film extremely tough to process no matter how many times you’ve seen this play out.
The real scene stealer is Laurence Fishburne and while that shouldn’t be surprising, this was pretty early in his career and even though he’d been in many films before this, it is his role here that put his career path on a strong upward trajectory.
It’s also worth pointing out how beautiful and perfect Stanley Clarke’s score is. The music conveys real emotion and it grounds the drama in a way that the mostly hip-hop soundtrack can’t on its own. There is a great balance between hip-hop, soul and the score itself. However, in contrast to what became typical of this style of film after Boyz N the Hood, this doesn’t use a ton of rap music. It’s there where it needs to be but this wasn’t a movie that was trying to sell soundtrack tie-ins like everything that copied it. And it’s not that that’s a bad thing and I didn’t even notice it back in the day but seeing this film now, it was kind of refreshing knowing that the filmmaker relied heavily on his composer to assist with the tone and the movement of the plot. Side note: Stanley Clarke’s first score was Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, which got him an Emmy nomination.
This is a heavy and emotional film; it works because it feels genuine and real. It has aged tremendously well and is kind of timeless, even if it is set in a specific era that comes with its own stylistic and cultural tropes.
Singleton, with Boyz N the Hood, crafted a perfect motion picture that deserves to be called a masterpiece and is still above all the films that came along and tried to emulate it. Not bad for a first time director.
Rating: 10/10 Pairs well with:Menace II Society, South Central, Colors, Baby Boy, Higher Learning and Poetic Justice.