Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Follows the lives of three young males living in the Crenshaw ghetto of Los Angeles, dissecting questions of race, relationships, violence, and future prospects.
Writer and Director John Singleton's portrayal of social problems in inner-city Los Angeles, California takes the form of a tale of three friends growing up together in the "hood". Half-brothers Doughboy (Ice Cube) and Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut) are foils for each other's personality, presenting very different approaches to the tough lives they face. Ricky is the "All-American" athlete, looking to win a football scholarship to USC and seeks salvation through sports, while Doughboy succumbs to the violence, alcohol, and crime surrounding him in his environment, but maintains a strong sense of pride and code of honor. Between these two is their friend Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.), who is lucky to have a father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne), to teach him to have the strength of character to do what is right and to always take responsibility for his actions.
At the age of ten, Tre Styles moves to the inner city to live with his dad, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). The elder Styles is determined to raise his son with self-respect and self-worth, not an easy task in a neighborhood where crime and drugs are rampant. By the age of seventeen, Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a level-headed young man who has stayed out of trouble, unlike his friend Doughboy (Ice Cube), who has been in and out of jail several times. His brother hopes a football scholarship will be his way out. Tre works hard to be true to his father and to his friends, but violence, which can change your life in an instant, is something they all have to deal with.
In South Central Los Angeles, California, Tre Styles lives with his divorced mother Reva Styles (Angela Bassett). When Tre is suspended for three days at school, Reva decides to send him to live in Crenshaw with his father, the businessman Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne), "to become a man". Tre befriends his neighbors, the half-brothers Doughboy and Ricky Baker, and soon they become best friends. Seven years later, Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is an educated teenager preparing to join the university; Ricky (Morris Chestnut) is an athlete, expecting to join the university with a scholarship, since he is a great football player; and Doughboy (Ice Cube) is a small time criminal that has been arrested several times. But they live in a dangerous neighborhood where dreams are shattered by bullets.
Black and in their late teens, Tre, Doughboy and Ricky - the latter two half brothers - have hung out together since they were kids, they doing so more after Tre's mother, Reva, seven years ago sent him, bright but adversarial, to live with his father, Furious, in the Crenshaw district of South Central Los Angeles across the street from the other two living with their single mother. The move was for Furious to show Tre what it means to have a sense of responsibility as a black male, especially in an atmosphere of black male violence against each other that pervades their neighborhoods. Furious, an independent financial adviser working in the neighborhood, believes that the urban black problems within which they live, including this violence and crime, is only fostered by the white majority. That move to live with Furious largely resulted in Tre having that responsibility in he now wanting to head off to college for a better life with his Catholic girlfriend Brandi, who has resisted the pressure of having sex in wanting to wait until the "inevitability" of she and Tre getting married. Ricky, already married with a child - the marriage because of the baby - is also aiming for a better life for his young family. A high school football star, Ricky is resting his dreams on a football scholarship. However, in not being sure he can meet the minimum SAT requirement of 700, he is sketching out a less than ideal Plan B considering that focus on his young family. Of the three, Doughboy is the one who has fallen into that "predetermined" life of crime and violence, he in a gang and having just been released from a stint in prison. Regardless of what the three view as their respective futures, those futures may be affected by the environment in which they live where looking at the wrong person in the wrong way could result in a death sentence.
The story of life in South Central Los Angeles, California, following the fortunes or otherwise of a group of young blacks. Struggling to escape the violence and drugs, some of them opt for education, pinning their hopes on college, others are caught up in the violence that is endemic to the neighborhood.
- The story opens in 1984, focusing on three young black male youths, Tre, Doughboy, and Ricky, as they grow up in South Central, Los Angeles. Tre Styles is an intelligent young student of about age 10, but encounters disciplinary problems at his young age -- he mouths off to his teacher, who gives him the opportunity to lecture on a topic of his choosing. One of his fellow students antagonizes him and he fights with the boy, earning an ejection for the day. His mother Reva Devereaux (Angela Bassett), decides it would be best for her son if Tre were to live with his father, Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). Furious is a no-nonsense disciplinarian who teaches his son how to be a man. Tre begins his new life in South Central L.A. and reunites with old friends Doughboy, Ricky, and Little Chris though shortly after being reunited, Doughboy and Chris are arrested for shoplifting from a local convenience store.
The film skips forward to seven years later in 1991 at a backyard picnic party. The three boys lead very different lives. Tre (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is a high school senior aspiring to become a college man, Ricky (Morris Chestnut) an All-American football player at the same school, and Doughboy (Ice Cube) a crack dealing gangster and high school dropout. The film offers a keen insight on racial inequality, drugs, sex, and gang violence.
Doughboy has just been released from prison and spends most of the time hanging out with friends Chris (now confined to a wheelchair), Monster and Dookie. Ricky is a star running back at Crenshaw High School. He has a out-of-wedlock son with his girlfriend Shanice (Alysia Rogers) and is being recruited by the University of Southern California, but needs to earn a minimum SAT score of 700 to receive an athletic scholarship. Tre also attends Crenshaw High School with Ricky and also has a girlfriend, Brandi (Nia Long). Tension exists between the two because he wants to have a sexual relationship with Brandi, who resists the idea because of her Catholic faith.
Tre is torn by his desire to be a success and live up to his father's expectation and the pull of peer pressure to be more involved in the local gang culture of Doughboy and his crew. The climax of the film depicts Ricky's murder by members of a the local Crips, with whose leader he had a minor conflict, ironically after the audience learns that he has achieved the 700 SAT score necessary to attend USC. Doughboy, Monster, and Dookie intend to avenge Ricky's death. Tre, who is Rickys best friend, takes Furious' gun, but is stopped by him before leaving the house. Furious convinces Tre not to take the gun and seek revenge and Tre seems to relent, but he soon joins Doughboy and his friends on a revenge mission. Half way through the trip, Tre realizes his father was correct, asks Doughboy to pull the car over, and returns home. Doughboy and his two friends proceed and avenge Ricky's murder, gunning down his killers in cold blood.
The film ends the following morning with a conversation between Tre and Dough Boy. Dough Boy understands why Tre left the revenge mission and both laments the circumstances that exist in South Central and questions whether or not they are locked in an unending cycle of violence. The end titles reveal that Doughboy was murdered two weeks later, and Tre went on to college with Brandi in Atlanta (with Tre enrolling at Morehouse, and Brandi at nearby Spelman).
Over a black screen the opening titles of the movie are show with voices heard during what sounds like a drive-by shooting. There seems to be some recognition between the participants and shots are fired from automatic weapons. A title card states "One out of every 21 Black-American males will be murdered in their lifetime", while a second title card states "Most will die at the hands of another Black Male". Police radio chatter is heard, reporting a "187", the police code for homicide. New voices are heard lamenting the deaths of people close to them. Suddenly a stop sign is shown, the frame slowly zooming in to a close-up.
The story opens in 1984. A young African-American boy, Tre Styles, who lives with his mother in a rough section of Los Angeles, goes to school one day with a few of his friends. One of his friends asks the rest of the kids if they heard a shooting that had taken place nearby the night before. The boy invites the rest of his friends to see the crime scene in front of an abandoned garage. The garage door is riddled with bullet holes and a lot of blood has been spilled on the ground. Tre himself is knowledgeable enough to recognize that the blood has separated into hemoglobin and plasma.
The kids go to school and are in class listening to their teacher talk to them about the Pilgrims and Thanksgiving. Tre scoffs at the lesson and the teacher invites him up to lecture the class. Tre arrogantly accepts and begins to talk about the continent of Africa, showing an impressive amount of knowledge on the subject. When he suggests that all the races of the world first came from Africa, one of the other students is scornful -- the boy is one of Tre's friends that he walked to school with that morning. Tre strikes the boy with the pointer he'd been using and the two scuffle in the class.
Tre is sent home. As he walks down his street he passes a bunch of teenagers beating up on another. We also hear, in voiceover, his mother, Reva, talking to his teacher, who says that Tre is quite intelligent and possesses a vast vocabulary but can't seem to control his temper. When the teacher asks if Tre's father lives with them and if Reva is educated, Reva becomes insulted and hostile and tells the teacher that Tre won't be coming back to school because he's going to live with his father, Furious.
Reva drives Tre to his father's house. On the way, she tells Tre that she doesn't want to see him end up poor, uneducated and living on the streets for the rest of his life. When they get to Furious' house, his mother talks to his father for a brief time and tells Furious that she can't teach Tre to be a mature adult. Tre finds his friends, Chris and Darren (called "Doughboy") hanging around his father's house, but isn't allowed to play with them as his father tells him to rake the leaves on the front lawn. Later, Tre and Furious go over the rules of the house and Furious tells Tre he's not being as hard on him as Tre believes, that he's simply trying to teach Tre responsibility. He also mentions that Tre's friends, who are fatherless, will wind up less fortunate than Tre.
That night a burglar sneaks into Furious' house. Tre gets up to use the bathroom while his father, knowing the thief is in the house, loads his Colt Python and jumps out of the bedroom, firing two quick shots. The leave gaping holes in his front door, and the thief escapes, leaving behind a sneaker. After calling the police, Tre and Furious wait nearly an hour for them to show up. One of the cops, a black man, seems to have a short temper and bristles when Furious tells him they'd been waiting a long time in the cold. Since nothing was actually stolen from the house, the black cop says there's no need to fill out a report. When he tries to be friendly toward Tre, Furious tells Tre to go back inside. The cop angrily asks if Furious has a problem with him; Furious' answer is "it's too bad you don't know what that is, brother."
The next day, Tre goes to Doughboy's house. Dough's brother, Ricky, is one of Tre's best friends, however, the two brothers have different fathers and their mother clearly favors Ricky. While Tre waits outside, Doughboy's mother berates her son, calling him lazy and stupid. Doughboy walks out and he and Tre wait for Ricky, who carries a football. They're joined by Chris, who asks them if they want to see a dead body. They go to where the corpse is laying and while they stare at it, a group of tough-looking teenagers walk up on them and demand Ricky's football, promising not to keep it. Scared, Ricky gives it to them and it's clear the boys are going to keep it. Doughboy walks over to one of the boys and demands the ball back. When he tries to take it and fails, he kicks the bigger boy in the leg. The boy backhands Doughboy and kicks him. Dough, Tre and Chris all begin to leave. When Ricky looks back at the teenagers, one of them relents and throws the ball back to Ricky. The three friends leave with Doughboy mumbling about going to the store. Ricky tells him he has no money but Dough says he's "going anyway."
Tre goes fishing with his father. At the ocean, Furious asks his son if he's a leader or a follower. Tre enthusiastically says he's a leader. Furious also asks Tre what he knows about sex. Tre gives a crude explanation and Furious tells him that anyone can have a baby but it takes a "real man to be a father," relating his own experience at becoming Tre's father at the age of 17. He also talks about how he joined the Army and felt discriminated against and that Tre should never consider joining the Army. The two drive back home and see a police car outside Doughboy's house. Dough and Chris are being arrested for shoplifting.
Seven years later a party is being held at Ricky and Dough's house. Dough has just been released from prison on a charge that isn't explained. Tre goes to the party and meets Dough. Dough and Ricky's mother, Brenda, talks to Tre and asks him to talk to Dough about staying out of prison. Tre finds Dough playing dominoes with Chris (now in a wheelchair) and another of his small gang, Monster. Also at the party is Brandi, Tre's girlfriend. Tre has his apprehensions about dating Brandi because she won't have sex with him. Tre also hasn't called her for several days and she leaves when a conversation about the subject goes nowhere. When the food is served, Tre suggests that the men at the party wait for the women to get their meals first. Ricky is also at the party and we see that he is now a father with an infant son. The child's mother lives with Ricky and his family at their mother's house.
Tre heads home with a plate of food for his father. He notices a toddler playing in the street and takes her home to his drug-addicted mother, admonishing her for not watching her child and for not changing the baby's diapers. She offers him oral sex in exchange for money but Tre refuses. As he crosses the street, a red car stops abruptly in front of him. One of the back windows rolls down and an angry-looking gang member points a sawed-off, double-barreled shotgun at Tre. Tre, though frightened, stands his ground and the car peels off.
At home, Tre gives his father the plate he brought home and asks Furious to trim his hair. While he does, Tre bemusedly tells his father that he's getting older. Furious, also amused, reminds Tre that Tre is only 17 years younger than him. Tre jokes a bit about his future children bothering their grandfather for money and Furious becomes agitated, asking Tre if he's protecting himself if he's sexually active. Tre tells his father a fictional story about having sex with a teenaged woman he met and Furious scolds him for not using a condom.
The next morning, Tre picks up Ricky and they head to school. Tre mentions the conversation with his father and reveals he's a virgin. Ricky laughs at first but apologizes after a few moments. After school, Ricky goes to football practice and Tre talks to Brandi. She still refuses to have sex with him because she's Catholic. Tre tries several arguments but Brandi remains steadfast. However, the two reconcile.
That night, while Doughboy hangs out on his front porch with his friends, an admissions representative from USC talks with Ricky about entering the prestigious university on a football scholarship. The rep suggests that football should not be Ricky's only goal for college, that he should explore other academic majors like business or computer sciences. All that remains for Ricky to qualify for the scholarship is to take the SAT. After the rep leaves, Brenda tells him how proud she is of him.
A few days later, Ricky and Tre take the SAT exam. After they finish, they go to Furious' office. Furious has built his own business where he assists people in finding low-cost loans to buy houses. He has Tre drive them to a very rough neighborhood in Compton. Under a large billboard advertising "cash for your home" Furious tells the boys about the process of gentrification, where the property value of run-down neighborhoods is reduced with the effect of forcing out the poor residents and then raising the property value to attract new, higher-income residents. Furious speaks further on the subject, talking about how rough neighborhoods like these have more liquor and gun stores than non-black neighborhoods. As he speaks, several young hustlers of the community walk over to listen to him. Furious' theory is that stores like those sell products that encourage poor people to kill themselves, either slowly (in the case of alcohol) or quickly (from murders). He also ties in the idea that crack cocaine is very rapidly creating too many addicts and causing too many deaths in poor communities. Furious suggests that black communities should work together to keep their businesses black-owned. When an old man who wanders into the group, he suggests that it the young people are the cause of all the trouble because they don't work, drink alcohol, deal drugs, smoke crack cocaine and kill each other in the streets. Furious counters, saying that black people don't supply the drugs that find their way onto the streets. One of the young men from the street says that he has no choice when someone approaches him in anger with a gun; he'll kill him before he'll be killed himself. Furious gravely tells him to think before he shoots.
Tre and Ricky drive back toward home when Tre says they should catch up with Doughboy & his friends on Crenshaw Boulevard. They arrive and park their car and walk back to Dough's car. While they talk to Dough, a tall gang member deliberately shoulders Rick roughly. Rick is suddenly angry and begins shouting at him -- the gang member seems indifferent. Dough gets out of his car and shows off the pistol he carries tucked in his waistband. When the gang member's girlfriend suggests they all hang out without a single shooting happening, Dough insults her. More of Dough's friends rally behind him and the hood stalks off. Moments later, a burst of automatic gunfire is heard and everyone scatters. The hood, returning to his car, had fired into the air with a MAC-10 sub-machine gun.
As they race away, Tre is upset, talking about how he feels the need to escape LA. He's soon pulled over -- one of the cops is the same cop that had responded to his father's call years before when their house had been broken into. The cop doesn't recognize Tre himself but assumes him to be a gang member. Angry at the thought of another gang member causing trouble on his beat, the cop pulls his pistol on Tre and threatens to shoot him. When another call comes in for a possible homicide, the cop lets Tre and Ricky go.
Tre goes to Brandi's house and breaks down crying. She comforts him and the two go to bed together. The next morning, Tre finds Dough on his mother's front porch. Ricky is inside, watching television. An ad for the US Army comes on and he begins to think that service might be the answer to his financial concerns for going to USC. His girlfriend asks him to go to a store and buy some cornmeal. On his way out the door, his brother gives him a hard time about being domesticated by his girlfriend. Ricky dismisses Dough with an insulting remark and they begin to fight on the front lawn. Their mother comes out and stops the fight by slapping Dough across the face. While Dough protests, his mother tries to comfort Ricky, who stalks off, followed by Tre.
The two go to a nearby convenience store. Ricky talks about how he'd like to join the Army however Tre tries to talk him out of it, citing his father's service & how it wasn't of much benefit to a young black man. On their return trip from the store, they spot the car belonging to the gang banger who'd started the fight with Rick the night before. The car begins to chase them and they break for an alley, slipping into a few back yards to throw off their pursuers. At home, Dough sees the gang bangers car rip around their block and instinctively knows they're chasing Rick and Tre. He gets into his own car with some friends and roars off to find them.
Emerging in another alley, Rick suggests he & Tre split up and meet back at home. Ricky is walking quietly toward another street, scratching a few lottery tickets he'd bought. Tre sees the gang bangers car pull up behind Rick and yells for him to run. From the backseat of the car, one of the gang members shoots Rick twice with a sawed-off shotgun. One shot hits Rick in the thigh, the other rips through his lower chest. He falls to the ground as Tre runs to him and holds him.
Doughboy and the others arrive too late to do anything and they bring Ricky back to his house where they tend to him. Both their mother and Rick's girlfriend scream and wail over his dead body. Doughboy, Monster, and Dookie intend to avenge Ricky's death. Tre goes back to his house and takes Furious' gun, but is stopped by his father before leaving the house. Furious convinces Tre not to take the gun and seek revenge and Tre seems to relent, laying down on his bed. Brandi arrives and goes to talk to Tre but he has just jumped out his window and joins Doughboy and his friends on a revenge mission. Halfway through the trip, Tre realizes his father was correct, asks Doughboy to pull the car over, and returns home.
Doughboy and his two friends drive around for a few more hours and finally spot Ricky's killers at a local food stand. Monster has an AK-47 and Dough rolls up on the bangers who make a break across a parking lot. Monster opens fire and hits all three of them, spilling them all to the pavement. Dough stops the car and approaches the bangers; one is dead, another who tries to crawl away is shot dead by Dough. Dough marches up on their leader, the one who started the fight with Ricky, demanding that he turn over and face him. The last banger wails that he wasn't the guy who pulled the trigger and curses Dough out until Dough shoots him twice more and runs back to his cars, his friends yelling that they need to go.
The film ends the following morning with a conversation between Tre and Doughboy. Doughboy understands why Tre left the revenge mission and both laments the circumstances that exist in South Central and questions whether or not they are locked in an unending cycle of violence. The end titles reveal that Doughboy was murdered two weeks later, and Tre went on to college with Brandi in Atlanta (with Tre enrolling at Morehouse, and Brandi at nearby Spelman). The final shot shows the title with the caption "Increase The Peace".