Daniel Holford’s review published on Letterboxd:
“Either they don't know, don't show, or don't care about what's going on in the hood.”
A brilliant, engaging and rather heart breaking drama. I’m from the north of England, this world in the movie a million miles away from my life. But isn’t that the beauty of cinema? Able to see these vastly important, and significant cultural depictions. It’s a film that feels timeless, the issues brought up still culturally impactful to this day. LJohn Singleton in his directorial debut manages to show the problems and struggles within this community, but never forgets the characters that give it that emotional crux.
At its forefront, it’s a coming of age story. Mostly focussing on Tre and Doughboy. Both from the same neighbourhood and having the same outside influences, but their home life totally different. Tre has a loving, and caring father, always trying to push his son onto the right path, whereas Doughboy is almost pushed away by his own mother. It’s a nice take on the nurture over nature of what pushes people onto their paths in life. The film touches on other bigger ideas, such as gun violence, and the gentrification of these neighbourhoods, but it never loses sight of the lead characters at the heart of the story.
The cast are all great, Cuba Gooding Jr and Ice Cube really bring their characters to life, the emotions and brutality of their life’s really shown in their performances. But for me, Laurence Fishbourne was the real stand out. As the father figure in Tre’s life, I really loved their relationship. Their relationship feels real, and natural. The way he tries to steer Tre into a better life, trying to avoid the sadly easy root of a dangerous lifestyle. It feels like the father has been through all the same things as Tre, in his youth, but it’s never overtly stated outright. Instead left with small moments from his line deliver.
For a debut, the script and direction by John Singleton is sublime. It’s written with such confidence, and all the dialogue feels real and natural between the characters. It’s well paced, giving us a glimpse into Tre’s really young life before moving forward to a Tre right before adulthood. My only issue with the film, was the score at times didn’t quite fit the tone of the movie. At times it felt a little overblown, and trying to evoke emotion, when the script and performances didn’t need it. It’s only a minor problem, in an otherwise outstanding film.
Impactful, heartbreaking, and genuinely gripping through its run time. You can’t dispute the impact of Singleton’s debut movie. Still feeling as relevant today as it did when first released.