(ag) wrote: A very enjoyable, farce like comedy about sexuality and masculinity. A great cast, including Tom Hollander who delivers a hilariously funny performance, the always lovely Jennifer Ehle and Hugo Weaving is just wicked. A somewhat disappointing conclusion concearning the two leads, Kevin McKidd and James Purefoy. Who by the way, are two very handsome leading men. You can overlook the ending, by the simple fact that it's not the most serious film in the world and hence it's all a very good laugh really.
(au) wrote: Menace II Society shows growing up in an impoverished urban area plagued by violence by detailing numerous different perspectives; compassion, aggression, resistance, compliance, brute force, contentment, and more. Various scenes in the film, which is largely a string of vignette-style events strung together rather than a fully formed plot, focus on characters discussing their motivations to either combat or work around the violence in their area, with some choosing to try and fight it by contributing to it, and others simply trying to function in a community that is more like a warzone.The Hughes Brothers, Albert and Allen, who directed and co-wrote the film with Tyger Williams, craft their film around two young black teens growing up in South Central Los Angeles. One is Kaydee "Caine" Lawson (Tyrin Turner), who's father was a drug dealer killed when he was only ten, while his mother was a heroin addict who died shortly after. He went on to live with his grandparents, though their strict, moralist attitudes rooted in religion didn't stop Caine from becoming a petty drug dealer like his father. The other young man is Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson, who shows his best friend Caine what he can really do when the two go to a Korean-owned cornerstore to buy malt liquor and the owners watch them suspiciously and nervously walk around the store. After the cashier makes a derogatory comment, O-Dog loses his cool and winds up shooting both the cashier and his wife before robbing the cash register and taking the surveillance tape. Just another day in South Central, it seems.The film winds up showing the day-to-day life of Caine and O-Dog, which involves Caine nearly dying after being shot in a carjacking, as well as petty crime involving cracking cars for insurance money. We also get a glimpse in the life of Ronnie (Jada Pinkett), a single-mother with a young son she is desperately trying to shelter from the bleak environment and unrelenting violence that engulfs the neighborhood. Her character's introduction begins the Hughes brothers' descent into examining different perspectives of the neighborhood.Consider the scene where Caine is playing with Ronnie's young son, who is clearly growing up fast for a five-year-old, as he loves to be able to hold Caine's pistol, drink liquor, and hang out with the crowd of older boys. Ronnie is disgusted by Caine's compliance with allowing her son to hold a pistol and hang with his friends as they sip some of their ostensibly endless supply of malt liquor and smoke marijuana. Caine claims that this is for the young boy's good, as this is a rough and rugged neighborhood that laughs at kids who are kept from witnessing the violence in such a miserable landscape. The Hughes brothers allow you, as a member of the audience, to judge for yourself on both perspectives and hear each of their characters out; it is because of this even-handed approach that we see that Caine's point, while holding weight, also shows the cyclical pattern of young black men getting incarcerated or killed at a young age due to violent crime or the solicitation of drugs, and we understand Ronnie's protectiveness as a parent, but wonder if that approach is also just buying time for another funeral.Unlike O-Dog, who largely acts on impulse and what is good in the momentary, Caine has stable guardians to fall back on when he's in trouble. The problem is, the social pressures that fall on Caine throughout the entire film are louder, stronger, and frankly, more attractive than going to church every Sunday and praying to a "white Jesus," as one character claims. Caine, O-Dog, and their other friend Sharif (Vonte Sweet) frequently remark about how the church plays a big role in their community, but the allure of fast cash, luxury, and the pursuit of something bigger than themselves at their current place through dirty business all take prominence in their mind instead of trying to build some sort of fundamental moral compass.The Hughes Brothers take a very liberal approach to Menace II Society in terms of crafting its characters. Unlike John Singleton's directorial debut Boyz N The Hood, a film that illustrates how and why you should care about its characters and why they are all smart men stuck in a hopeless situation, Menace II Society never gives you a reason to like Caine and O-Dog. By the conventionality of Hollywood cinema, we, the audience, should detest Caine and O-Dog for their criminal ways and their unconscionable resort to violence and immediate gratification whenever they get the chance. The Hughes brothers likely feel the same way, but they challenge us to find reasons for us to care about them throughout the course of the film, and see if we can find even some sympathy for their situations.For much of the film, I didn't feel too sympathetic, until the third act, which takes a strikingly raw turn. Granted much of the film is captured with a gritty sense of realism, one doesn't really see the ugliness unfold until the third act, when karmic revenge circumvents and finds its lead characters unprepared to lie in the bed they've made for themselves. Menace II Society's only lacking feature is the Hughes brothers' directorial choices; the camera never seems to stay still, and either finds itself oscillating around the main characters in a 360 degree fashion or loosely tracks its location in a way that sort of oddly details spatial relations between characters and their surroundings when there's really no need to do so.With all that being said, Menace II Society winds up using its narrative and directorial grittiness in a manner that's germane to its illustration of various character perspectives in how to deal with growing up in a tumultuous neighborhood. The end result bears all the pain, immediate gratification, and whirlwind of emotions you'd expect and winds up being one of the strongest dramas I've yet to see that details the hood in a painfully realistic light. Finally, it works to emphasize that while your drug-dealing and violent crime is indeed a menace to society, it's also makes, perhaps equally significant, a menace to yourself.Starring: Tyrin Turner, Larenz Tate, Jada Pinkett, and Vonte Sweet. Directed by: The Hughes Brothers.