Menace II Society

Last updated
Menace II Society
Menace II Society.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed by The Hughes Brothers
Screenplay byTyger Williams
Story byAllen Hughes
Albert Hughes
Tyger Williams
Produced by Darin Scott
Starring
CinematographyLisa Rinzler
Edited byChristopher Koefoed
Music by QDIII
Distributed by New Line Cinema
Release date
  • May 26, 1993 (1993-05-26)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$30 million [1]

Menace II Society (pronounced Menace to Society) is a 1993 American teen hood drama film directed by Allen and Albert Hughes [2] in their film directorial debut. It stars Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett, and Larenz Tate. The film is set in Watts, Los Angeles, and follows the life of a young man named Kaydee "Caine" Lawson and his close friends. The film is notable for featuring breakout roles for Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett, and Larenz Tate. It gained notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity and drug-related content. It also received critical acclaim for the performances of Tyrin Turner and Larenz Tate, the direction, and its realistic portrayal of urban violence and powerful underlying messages.

Contents

Plot

Kaydee “Caine” Lawson and his best friend Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson enter a liquor store to buy some malt liquor, where a Korean cashier and his wife rush them to pay for their drinks and leave. After their purchase, the cashier inadvertently insults and provokes O-Dog by saying, "I feel sorry for your mother." O-Dog argues with the cashier, then kills him and his wife with his gun, takes the surveillance tape, robs the clerk's wallet and the cash register, and flees the store with Caine.

In a flashback, it is revealed that Caine's father, a drug dealer, was killed in a drug deal gone wrong when Caine was 10, and that his mother, a heroin addict, died of a drug overdose. This led to his grandparents raising him in the crime-ridden Jordan Downs housing projects.

O-Dog proudly displays the surveillance tape to his admiring friends, greatly annoying Caine. Later, Caine and his cousin Harold are carjacked en route from a party, with Harold being murdered and Caine being wounded. After learning the carjackers' whereabouts, O-Dog, Caine, and their friend A-Wax, an OG, hunt them down together, killing them and avenging Harold's death.

Caine and O-Dog are arrested after a failed car theft attempt, and even though Caine's fingerprints match those taken from a bottle at the liquor store on the night of the robbery, Caine is soon released as the police fail to link him to the crime.

Caine's friends, Stacy and Sharif, try to convince him to leave with them to Kansas, and both Caine's grandfather and Sharif's father warn Caine that he will either end up dead or in jail if he doesn't change his ways. Caine, nevertheless, ignores all advice.

After buying a Ford Mustang from a chop shop, Caine carjacks another young black man for his gold Dayton wire wheels and his jewelry, then purchases a large quantity of cocaine that he plans to sell as crack. Caine also meets a local girl named Illena and eventually has sex with her. While driving one night, Caine and Sharif are pulled over and beaten by cops. The two are dumped in a Hispanic neighborhood, but the Hispanic gang members are nice enough to take them to a hospital instead of beating them even more as the cops anticipated. While Caine is hospitalized, his friend Ronnie tells Caine that she has found a job in Atlanta and invites him to come with her. Initially hesitant, Caine ultimately agrees to go.

At a party, Chauncey, a confederate of Caine in an insurance scam, drunkenly makes sexual moves towards Ronnie. Caine comes to her rescue and starts pistol-whipping Chauncey, prompting Stacy and Sharif to hold him back. Illena calls to inform Caine that she is pregnant, but he refuses to believe that the child is his and drops her. Chauncey retaliates for Caine's assault by sending a copy of the surveillance tape to the police, who begin looking for Caine and O-Dog, as they are now wanted for the liquor store robbery and murders. Meanwhile, Caine beats up Ilena's cousin when he confronts Caine outside Caine's grandparents' house about the pregnancy. After Caine's grandparents witness the beating and a brief conversation with Caine, they decide on kicking Caine out of their house, despite Caine's pleas to stay. Meanwhile, Ilena's cousin gathers his friends to get revenge on Caine.

As Caine and Ronnie are getting ready to leave for Atlanta, Ilena's cousin and his friends drive by Ronnie's house and engage a drive-by shootout. Sharif is killed instantly, while Caine is fatally wounded trying to protect Ronnie's son, Stacy and Ronnie come running out of the house screaming for help. O-Dog shoots back at the attackers and is unharmed. As Caine slowly dies in Stacy's arms, he sees flashbacks of the events that led to this outcome. Caine recalls his grandfather asking him if he cares whether he lives or dies, and he realizes in his dying moment that he does, but now it's too late. O-Dog is also arrested for the liquor store murders.

Cast

Production

Originally, MC Ren was set to play A-Wax, but later turned down the role when he joined the Nation of Islam in late 1992. Rapper Spice 1 was set to play Caine, and Tupac Shakur to play Sharif, but they were later fired with director Allen Hughes stating that Shakur was causing trouble on the set. Shakur was angry for not being told why Sharif would turn Muslim. Six months after the firing, Shakur assaulted the director, resulting in Shakur being found guilty of assault and battery. [3] Shakur did not want to play the role of Sharif, as he did not agree (in regards to the authenticity of such a role) that a Muslim could also be a gangbanger. He is quoted as saying the following in a video interview, [4]

"I said okay, cool ... fire me from this $100,000 movie, because I ain't goin' play no gangbanger who's a Muslim. There ain't no such thing, I refuse to play parts that don't exist. I will be a young nigga, but will be a real young nigga."

Tupac Shakur

Shakur wanted to play O-Dog. Shakur and Spice 1 were later replaced with Larenz Tate and Tyrin Turner, respectively. [5]

Reception

Menace II Society received generally positive reviews from critics. [6] The film has an 83% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 42 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The consensus reads, "Told with grit and verve by the Hughes brothers in their feature debut, Menace II Society is a gangland epic that breathes with authenticity while steeped in style." [7]

Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum stated, "This is a powerful, convincing, and terrifying look at teenage crime in contemporary Watts." [8] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave it a positive review, stating, "Menace II Society is bleak, brilliant, and unsparing." [9]

EmanuelLevy.com gave the film an A, saying it is "The most stunning feature debut in the new African American cinema, even more so than Boyz n the Hood to which the coming of age feature bears thematic resemblance." [10] The film was placed on both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert's 10 best films of 1993 lists, with Ebert praising "the way the filmmakers tell Caine's story without making him seem either the hero or victim". [11] [12]

However, the film has also received some negative reviews. Geoff Andrew of Time Out stated, "Regrettably, the Hughes Brothers' first feature is a compendium of clichés." [13] Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "If Menace II Society is terrific on ambiance, it is considerably less successful in revealing character." [14] At the 1994 MTV Movie Awards, the film was awarded Best Movie, beating out the likes of Philadelphia , Jurassic Park and Schindler's List . [15] The film also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography and was nominated for Best First Feature, but lost to El Mariachi (the first installment in the Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy ). [16]

The film grossed $27.9 million in the United States and Canada but only $1.6 million internationally for a worldwide total of $29.5 million. [17] [1]

Soundtrack

A soundtrack containing hip hop music was released on May 26, 1993, by Jive Records. It peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

See also

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References

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