Movies Revisited….Menace II Society
Hey guys…welcome to the new site; it’s Rocky Horror aka Invisible Woman. Issa and I felt like there needed to be a unique Black Cinema Review blog that covered only Black Cinema….at least what Black Cinema is to us without getting into a long academic discussion about it….with the inclusion of the new, classic, and not so classic.
Saw “Star Trek” (fantastic), but that would be veering off…the presence of Zoe Saldana nonwithstanding. I haven’t seen much this week, as I’ve been deeply buried in an “Entourage” marathon. I know, I’m late as hell. Just like all the HBO series, I am not impressed at first, then end up loving it and going on some week long marathon 2 or 3 years later to catch up–missing sleep and everything.
Anyway, one Black Cinema flick I did catch was “Menace II Society”. Mind you, I haven’t seen this film since the 90’s, tho it is community favorite. I like re-seeing films much later, as the people that you didn’t pay attention to before you can now say “I didn’t know so and so was in this!” For me, I did not remember Charles Dutton, Sam Jackson, Khandi Alexander, Bill Duke, and man of a billion movies, Clifton Powell, who was at least 10 years too old for his part.
Two things stuck out for me in this film this time around, the first one marveling at the self assured technical and artistic mastery of the Hughes Brothers, who were just 21, yes 21, when they finished this film. That in itself is pretty freakin’ amazing.
The second was the absolutely wretched performance of the lead, Tyrin Turner. For the three of you who don’t know, the plot summary is this: ‘This urban nightmare chronicles several days in the life of Caine Lawson, following his high-school graduation, as he attempts to escape his violent existence in the projects of Watts, CA’ . Tyrin plays Caine, or what passes as plays. I’ve often wondered why he seemed to fall off the face of the earth after this film, besides the fact that he is like four feet tall, but watching this, it was easy to spot the reason–his monotone voice, expressionless face, and inability to convey any emotion of the horrors of the violence around him made me scratch my head in wonder about this peculiar casting choice. (Update: Tupac was cast to play Caine, but had a fight with one of the Hughes Brothers and was fired…I had forgotten about that)
This film was absolutely huge in the 90’s–and still stands today for many. I even heard someone talking about it in great detail while getting my hair did last week. It was voted in the top 10 reader favorites on my other blog, “Black Cinema At Large” two years ago.
Why? Hmmm. For one, it was pretty groundbreaking for it’s time–the artistic way in which it was photographed…the graphic unapologetic violence was almost poetry in itself. The cast was very strong (besides Tyrin), most notably Larenz Tate as a complete psycho who had absolutely no idea of how sick he actually was. How “realistic” this film actually was is hard for me to tell, as I have never lived in Watts, or anything close to it…I have no idea if the situations are exaggerated, but YT took it as gospel and ate it up with a spoon…such were the huge successes of “realistic” ghetto life in the early nineties like this film and “Boyz N’ The Hood”, a distinct departure from the cartoony “get the man” exploitation flicks of the 70’s.
If this film were released today, it might go straight to DVD, as we’ve seen it all before, but this 1993 film is the groundbreaker for why we all have. Here is the trailer: