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Movies Revisited….Menace II Society

May 27, 2009

menace

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:

15 Comments leave one →
  1. May 27, 2009 5:42 am

    Man I thought I was the only one who thought Tyrin Turner was awful! I gave him the benefit of the doubt, seeing as how he had to share screen time with Larenz Tate (who I think was just downright RAW as O), and Jada (who isn’t the best, but fits into a ghetto movie like a hand in a glove)…

    This is one of my favorites because it shows that even if you try, you sometimes can’t escape the shit you create.

    • March 1, 2010 9:54 am

      Tyrin Turner is a awful actor indeed, Tupac would be much better on Caine’s role, that’s what i think!

  2. May 27, 2009 12:02 pm

    So I’m one of the three :-\.
    I haven’t seen this movie yet. I saw the opening, violent ass scene and I put that mess on pause. I can’t STAND violence. But that’s the only thing standing between me and this classic. I own the damn DVD!

    You are so right about it probably being released only on DVD today. Damn … hood dramas would be a joke in this day and age.

    And I can’t believe the Hughes Brothers were only 21?!?!?! People like them make me feel like I’m sleeping.

  3. May 27, 2009 4:55 pm

    I only watched this movie because back then I had a crush on Larenz Tate. The funny thing is that I can’t remember a single scene. It’s been a while!

  4. Mangoqueen permalink
    May 29, 2009 7:12 pm

    Larenz was the best thing about this film. I also liked the soundtrack. High 5 was one of my fave groups.

    SDG

  5. Rocky Horror permalink*
    May 30, 2009 4:46 pm

    @marvalus: I was like “why didn’t I remember dude being so terrible?” I guess I was so immersed in everything else in the movie back in the day I couldn’t see it.

    @issa: just watch it from a technical/style aspect….the violence will become secondary

    @karen: i know, I barely remembered it either…larenz just a bit too short for me tho

    @mangoqueen: i forgot to mention the soundtrack–bangin’!

  6. Kiki permalink
    June 3, 2009 4:44 am

    Good post! This is definitely a hood classic and I’m glad you spotted the fact that Clifton Powell was clearly TOO old for his role!

    LOL@ Tyrin Turner! I didn’t think he was THAT bad. He really conveyed that non-chalant LA attitude of not giving a shit. Best example is in the trailer: Charles Dutton is scolding him about surviving; he replies (stupidly)…”What’s that, sir?”

    I love this movie.

  7. Rocky Horror permalink*
    June 3, 2009 7:44 pm

    @kiki: you know, i did think about exactly what you said when i wrote this; i know there are dudes in the hood who act/react that way. but for some reason i felt that wasn’t what tyrin had in mind–he was just someone who didn’t really know what he was doing. at least that was what i got…

  8. June 14, 2009 3:59 am

    LMAO @”the absolutely wretched performance of the lead, Tyrin Turner.”

    OMG so true.

    It is the epitome of hood movie but like Issa…the violence made me cringe…though…it is in my collection.:)

    • Rocky Horror permalink*
      June 14, 2009 11:49 am

      Can you imagine what the movie would have been like with Tupac? How do you go from Tupac to Tyrin? I’m just sayin’.

      Yeah, there was violence, but it was necessary to the story like it was in The Godfather…I guess you can own some films just because they are classics and never really watch them–I know I have a few.

      Like your blog!

  9. June 14, 2009 1:37 pm

    Thx hon:)

  10. May 19, 2010 4:04 pm

    Did you ever sneak into the movies when you were a kid?

  11. YoungBoss permalink
    May 29, 2010 12:38 pm

    Tupac was supposed to play Shareef, and he didnt agree with playing the role of a “sucka”

  12. cmb permalink
    October 19, 2010 2:11 pm

    i read that with tupac he was supposed to be sharif but he got into it with the bros. he didn’t want to play sharif because he was a muslim who was putting in work on the street (script was changed later), pac didn’t agree with that. i actually heard pac talk about it in an interview , it should be on youtube.

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