Boyz n The Hood – 1991 or 2019? The violent and unfortunate reality of Black America

I am 28 years late, however in my defence I am currently 22 and this film existed for a good 6 years before my birth and 16 years before I was as old as the young Trey Furious portrayed at the start of the film. One thing I can say whether it is 1991 or 2019, Boyz N The Hood hits home for many black people up to present. The film explores significant themes which are still as equally relevant today. I managed to get the full experience for this movie, no I did not stream it on Netflix or a random streaming site, I watched this gem on the big screen at the British Film Institute (BFI). If you are under 25 and live in London I strongly urge you to apply to the BFI’s under 25 membership where you can enjoy films for £3! Before I get into this review, I would like to firstly say that I have never cried with such emotion at a screening until I saw this film. It has moved me to the core and it would be selfish of me to not write about it and with a 96% rating on rotten tomatoes it is no surprise that this a film that everyone must watch at some point.

There will be a few spoilers if you have not watched this movie before.

The film follows the development of our black male protagonist Trey Style, (portrayed by Cuba Gooding Jr and Desi Arnez Hines II as Trey at age 10). The 10 year old lives with his single mother, Reva Styles (portrayed by Angela Bassett) and is sent to live with his father Jason Furious Styles (portrayed by Laurence Fishburne) after an altercation which leads to a temporary suspension from school. Trey spends the next 7 years of his life under the guidance of his father, the film explores several themes, these include love, violence, masculinity and parenting.

Violence is a prominent theme in the film, police brutality and gang violence are at the centre front. The opening quote reads “1 out of 21 Black American males will be murdered in their life time”, we can hear loud sirens and a police officer reporting a “possible 187 at the corner of Crenshaw and Century”, indicating there has been a murder, with crying and screaming in the background. Gang violence is not unknown in Crenshaw, and this film helps to depict the brutal reality for most underprivileged black communities in the US. Police attending to crime scenes hours after calls, bodies abandoned in neighbourhoods, crime scenes left visible and open to the public. These images reveal how urban communities are constantly neglected and disrespected by the state. This is further projected through the use of the aggressive black police officer, portraying visible elements of self-hatred, insecurity and the abuse of power and the Los Angeles Police department is also no stranger to corrupt conduct.

In addition, gangs are portrayed as families and close knit communities, the violence is not sporadic, rather it is motivated through clashes between members of particular groups. Singleton has provided a lens for the outsider to look into these communities, for most there is no real choice, people have to hustle to survive. In the film we see Ice Cube’s character Doughboy go to prison for shop lifting at the age of 10 to later be released at the age of 17 as a gang member of the Crips. Focusing on parenting and family, we see that Trey has grown to be an educated young man under the guidance of his father. Conversely, for Doughboy who raised by his mother in a single parent home living in the shadow of his half brother, there had been no rehabilitation or growth during his 7 years behind bars. The United States is noted to have the highest incarceration rate in the world, and the treatment of people of colour by law enforcement is known to be brutal, this is depicted on screen when the black police officer holds a gun up to Trey’s chin threatening to blow his head off, we can only imagine the treatment that Doughboy experience behind closed doors. His gang lifestyle is the only lifestyle that he has been conditioned to know, however this will be something that will have a devastating impact on his own family dynamics.

To sum up, this is a great movie which reveals the all too real struggles, hopes and fears of black people in the United States and as a Black Brit this film resonated with me as I am aware of what it means to be black within a white society which benefits from racial inequality and systematic racism.

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