Release: 3rd February 2020
Format: BR / DVD / DGTL
BOYZ N THE HOOD is the critically acclaimed coming-of-age story of growing up in a South Central Los Angeles neighborhood. It is a place where harmony co-exists with adversity, especially for three young men growing up there: Doughboy (Ice Cube), an unambitious drug dealer; his brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut), a college-bound teenage father; and Ricky’s best friend Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who aspires to a brighter future beyond “The Hood.” In a world where a trip to the store can end in death, the friends have diverse reactions to their bleak surroundings. Tre’s resolve is strengthened by a strong father (Larry Fishburne) who keeps him on the right track. But the lessons Tre learns are put to the ultimate test when tragedy strikes close to home, and retaliation seems the only recourse. .
The enduring tragedy of Boyz N’ the Hood is not necessarily the picture it paints of South-Central L.A; with its poverty, violence and innocence lost. It is not even necessarily the desperate truth that black communities often faced an unwinnable battle to claw themselves out of these situations. And it is not even the brutal final moments that depict a cycle of death thrust upon the youth of the time. The real tragedy is that John Singleton’s blistering debut could easily have been made yesterday and it would still feel authentic. Music and fashions may have changed, but the violent quagmire still remains. John Singleton and his proxy Furious Styles would have you believe it is “the man” keeping it this way. Even now, it is hard to disagree.
Thanks to Sony’s 4K treatment, Boyz has received a sizeable uptick in both picture and sound quality. The entire package is hardly flawless; with the opening sequence, for example, looking particularly rough; but for the most part, this is an excellent presentation. This version of the film also receives a notable improvement in its sound design. For a film such as Boyz, authenticity and empathy are key. As the film veers into his heart-breaking final act, sound is a particularly important part of the viewing experience. From Ferris and his crew of knuckleheads cruising around the neighbourhood, to the ear splitting crack of that shotgun; Singleton clearly wanted to put us smackdab in the centre of each moment, and this presentation does exactly that.
Boyz N’ the Hood is an extremely powerful film. There are nuanced implications to every exchange. Judgement is rarely passed on the likes of Doughboy, as we accept that his lifestyle choice IS part of the problem; Furious says as much in his billboard speech. But this is a film more about calling to the masses to demand their attention. As we as an audience become more consciously aware of the great divide promoting “self-extermination”, things are hopefully more likely to change. When it was first released, Boyz N’ the Hood was a jolt of lightening to the public psyche. Since then, there have been a litany of imitations of varying quality. Many have even embraced the gang culture depictions and herald these films as masterpieces for all the wrong reasons. But with communally mindful films such as Joker and Parasite winning big at the Oscars this year, and with the recent and tragic passing of John Singleton, Boyz N’ the Hood could not have been given a more perfect opportunity to gain a second wind as the socially relevant classic we know it to be.
Film Grade: A-
With the lion’s share of bonus features coming from a ported blu-ray (these were not available for review). Meanwhile, the 4K is left to pick up a few historical pieces from the film’s original making of. There is also a retrospective on Singleton, which is possibly the most notable offering here.
Special Features Grade: C+
Visually dated, but relevant as hell. Boyz N’ the Hood is a reminder that things rarely change unless we all truly want it to.