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Thursday, September 22, 2022

Menace II Society 1993 * * * 1/2 Stars


1993's Menace II Society is not so much a violent drama as it is a war film set in the street gang areas of southern LA. The young criminals and hustlers featured are like foot soldiers and Watts is well, like Vietnam, Laos, and Cambodia all rolled into one. Watching "Society", you feel as unsafe and parlous as its personas do. There's no two ways about it.

Edited a tad choppy in order to squeeze everything in the movie's 97-minute running time, Menace II Society was a breakthrough success for its filmmakers at the time (Allen and Albert Hughes). The Hughes brothers obviously saw Boyz n the Hood and said, "hold my beer, I can top that". "Society" is Boyz n the Hood 2.0 with a little Goodfellas sprinkled in. You catch the gunfire, you hear the sirens, you smell the blood, you sense a ghetto bird is always flying over.

Menace II Society has a sunless tone even when it's light out. It's a barbaric kaleidoscope of drugs and money and cross-cut gangbanging. The flick is seen through the eyes of its misguided chorus in lead character "Caine" (played by Tyrin Turner is some good, wide-eyed casting). "Society" follows "Caine" and his buds as they drink the OE, smoke some ganga, steal cars, and murder in one summer via the pauperized boroughs of hazy Southland. It's kill or be killed, live by the sword, die by the sword stuff and the Hughes brothers want you to feel it.

In Menace II Society, Allen and Albert Hughes commit to every shot with their favorite being the tracking shot. As their camera glides through various residences in the hood, it's like a veritable house of horrors. You know the surroundings are bleak and everyone involved may not live very much longer. For these two dudes, Menace II Society is an attested, directorial coup de maitre. Pretty much nothing in this pic is "society's" fault.

Written by Jesse Burleson

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