Boyz N The Hood Blu-ray review
Now 20 years old, John Singleton’s Oscar-nominated debut Boyz N The Hood arrives on Blu-ray. Here’s Stu’s review of an enduringly brilliant film…
The power of John Singleton’s debut film, Boyz N The Hood, can still be felt even 20 years on. The film spawned a legacy of films set in ghettos in America and around the world, yet it has seldom been bettered.
The problem with some socio-political films is that they don’t age very well: times change, and the issues they raise no longer seem current. Boyz N The Hood, meanwhile, still feels relevant for a 20-year-old film, with its themes of race, gentrification, drug abuse and violence in South Central Los Angeles.
Although set in a specific time and location, it’s still easy for an outsider to empathise with what goes on. I was far too young to see Boyz N The Hood in 1991, and didn’t see it until fifteen years later. I have also lived in Scotland for my entire life, but I still found it to be an extremely powerful film.
Boyz N The Hood is more of a coming of age tale than a gangster film, as many of the so-called ghetto films were that followed it. It’s a story about four friends growing up in South Central Los Angeles in the late 80s and early 90s. What gives the film such a punch is its backdrop – in any other setting, this would just be an average film about four young men growing up. The violent LA setting is terrifying because, at the time, this was what real young men in the area dealt with every day.
What Boyz N The Hood does best is capture the dread of inevitable violence. It isn’t a particularly violent film, but the threat of violence, which hangs over the film throughout, is palpable.
The ensemble cast does a formidable job in portraying the everyday lives of its characters – particularly Laurence Fishburne as Furious Styles. Fishburne’s charisma gives the diatribes and preaching of Furious an extra dimension. He is “The father figure to a generation of fatherless children”, as Fishburne himself later said in reference to the character, and tries to make the boys see that a clean, violence-free life is what they should aspire to.
Boyz N The Hood was John Singleton’s debut feature. He was 23 when the film was released, and 24 when the film was nominated for two Oscars, making Singleton the younger director to have ever been nominated. He captured what it would be like to grow up in LA in the early 90s, and he hasn’t made a better film since.
By filming on location in South Central LA and using young (and mostly first-time) actors, he has given the film an air of authenticity that couldn’t be replicated in any other way. The contrast between the blue Californian skies and the violence and depravation on the streets is a strong one, and it is a brilliant move if it was intended.
Boyz N The Hood isn’t really the kind of film you would use to demo your home entertainment system, but it’s still a pretty solid transfer. The noise on the image hasn’t been completely removed, which is just as well, as a film as gritty as this doesn’t need to have a really clean picture. The sound can be a little rough in some areas, especially in some of the extras.
For a 20th anniversary edition, the amount of extras on the disc is a little disappointing. There are two features (one is very good, and the other is overly long, but still pretty informative), two deleted scenes, an audio commentary, audition tapes, and trailers for other films. What’s on show is absolutely fine, but I would have expected more for an anniversary edition.
If you already own Boyz N The Hood on another format, this isn’t exactly going to make you rush out to buy it again, but if it’s a film you haven’t seen before or haven’t seen in a while, then I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is an absolutely essential document of American cinema, and also the definitive early 90s ghetto film.
You can rent or buy Boyz N The Hood at Blockbuster.co.uk.