John Singleton was unknown when he wrote the script for "Boyz n the Hood" and managed to get the money to fund it. The end result launched his career by raking in about $80 million, which was a lot more than the $6 million budget. The movie was intended to make a strong statement about gang warfare in cities like Los Angeles and succeeded on a grand level.
The story begins with young Tre Styles finding a dead body with his school friends. After misbehaving at school, his divorced mother sends him to live with his father, Jason "Furious" Styles, who lives in a rough part of L.A. After being spoiled by his mother, Tre quickly finds himself doing yardwork and household chores as part of Furious' efforts to make a man out of him.
He also meets several neighborhood kids, including Darin "Doughboy" Baker, his brother Ricky Baker, Chris, and Bobby. Tre and Ricky become close because they both have high ambitions to get out of the ghetto and make something of themselves. The other kids, however, immediately get roped into the criminal lifestyle and have no hope for the future.
After Doughboy is arrested and taken to juvenile detention, the film makes a time shift from childhood to adolescence. Tre has a girlfriend and a respectable job, Ricky has a wife and a baby and is on the road to a football scholarship, and Doughboy has just gotten out of jail. After Doughboy gets out of prison, things go downhill from there as he stirs up trouble with a gang from a rival hood.
Tre Styles is played by Cuba Gooding Jr. in his first major film role. Furious Styles is played by Laurence Fishburne in one of his first serious roles. Supporting character Doughboy was played by rap artist Ice Cube and Ricky Baker was played by Morris Chestnut. Tre's girlfriend Brandi was played by Nia Long, who was also in one of her first film roles.
The acting in this film was much better than I expected it to be. Cuba Gooding Jr. displays real emotion after he is pulled over by the police and insulted just because he is black. I really liked Laurence Fishburne in this film since he played the role of the caring, but strong father perfectly. Even Ice Cube does a good job of showing his soft side, although he is playing a "gangster" tough guy most of the film.
Unlike many other "urban crime" films, this one is not glorifying violence. The purpose of this film was to show the stupidity of gang warfare and this is shown in a less than subtle manner by the close up shot of the stop sign at the beginning. Even when Ice Cube exacts revenge, he doesn't seem proud of his actions, more sad and angry than anything.
Most of the music in the film is period music. The scenes of Tre's childhood feature older music, including "O-o-h Child" by The Five Stairsteps. The later scenes feature more rap music, including an original work by Ice Cube and the song "Sucker M.C.'s" by Run-DMC. The music fits in the film very well since it reflects the culture at the subject of the film.
Overall, I was very impressed with this film, particularly since it was made on such a low budget. The film addressed a serious issue that was particularly problematic during the early 1990s and I thought it was great to see that someone had the courage to reveal the ravages of gangs. It spawned several copycat films, but none of them seem to be as effective as this one.