R Dir: John Singleton | Sony | 1h 52min
Plot: What’s it about?
Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) was sent to live with his father Furious (Laurence Fishburne) as a child, thanks to his continual behavioral problems. At his father’s residence, Tre is surrounded by other troubled youths and continues to be troublesome. But Furious is determined to keep his son on the right path, no matter what it takes. He has seen what the ghetto can do to even the brightest residents, so he tries to set a good example for his own child to follow. Tre has made his father proud for the most part, as he has matured a lot and keeps himself out of trouble most of the time. This is a testament to his personal growth, as he has been surrounded by violence, drugs, and sex his entire life, but has managed to stay on the right side of those elements. His childhood friend Doughboy (Ice Cube) has just been released from prison, which results in a neighborhood bash and a reunion of sorts for all the locals. Doughboy’s time behind bars hasn’t made him a better person, as he is satisfied with a life of dealing drugs and never leaving his neighborhood. His brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut) has visions of the future however, as he is close to getting an athletic scholarship and moving on. Tre also eyes a brighter future, as he pursues his interests and even seeks out a potential romance. But anything can change in an instant in this neighborhood, so can these three friends survive and see their dreams fulfilled?
One of the first, and still one of the best films about life in South Central, Boyz N The Hood stands as a substantial production. I still think Menace II Society is a superior picture in most respects, but this movie offers more in terms of a human side. We can connect with some of these characters, even if we’re far removed from their surroundings and circumstances. After all, we all face problems like drugs, violence, and the unknown future. This is not one of those gangsta flicks that flood shelves these days, the kind that glorify the thug lifestyle of drugs, violence, and sex. Instead, it is a look inside the lives of people and how they handle life’s challenges. Some make the right choices and some make the wrong ones, but the characters are not over simplified as good or bad, which makes the experience more realistic. We all have flaws in our character, so a movie that presents people as flawed makes for a much more effective presentation. So we see the good in even the worst of the people here, as well as the bad side of the very best, which ensures that there is a solid connection with the audience. There is a lot of bad language, violence, and drug content, but there has to be with this material, so no reason to be overly offended.
This wasn’t his first role in a feature film, but it did offer Cuba Gooding, Jr. his first chance at a lead role. I know that Boyz N The Hood has several lead roles, but Gooding’s character is at the heart of the material, so I consider him to be the true lead. We see a lot of the events through his eyes, as he reacts to what happens, so do we. In this raw, tough role, Gooding shines and proves that talent can often be important than experience. His lack of stardom and experience could have been a plus here in fact, as we could accept him as a normal young man. And that connection is crucial in Boyz N The Hood, as without it, we would drift back too far from the material. But we can relate to Gooding’s character and by turn, we can connect to the material, even if, like I said before, we’re far removed from his kind of situation. His potential was well showcased in this movie and of course, he would go on to play in numerous acclaimed roles. He would even take home an Oscar at one point, which isn’t a surprise, based on his work here.
Video: How’s it look?
I’ve said it before and because I’m unoriginal, I’ll say it again – Sony’s 4K discs consistently knock it out of the park. Shot in 1991 (well, probably 1990) the picture was hardly a big budget production. The film, as of this writing, is nearly three decades old but you’d be hard-pressed to tell. The addition of HDR has really breathed new life into a majority of the shots producing deeper, richer blacks and an increased color spectrum. Remember those colorful rayon shirts from the early 90’s? I do. They leap off the screen. Detail has been improved as well, giving us a very silky, film-like look. It’s another feather in the hat for Sony, who is consistently cranking out some top notch 4K efforts on catalog titles.
Audio: How’s it sound?
Having come out a few years before the “surround sound” format was embraced by the masses, Boyz N The Hood had a long way to come. The new Dolby Atmos, like the transfer, gives the film an almost entirely new sound. Bass thumps, dialogue is snappy and ambient surround effects are present in most every scene. The score is what really struck me the most, with the early 90’s hip hop and rap music proliferating; bear in mind that this is the decade in which this type of music really took off. I wouldn’t solely credit this movie, but it’s popularity certainly helped. The new Atmos mix really does make all the difference.
Supplements: What are the extras?
Disc One (4K Ultra HD Blu-ray)
- John Singleton Tribute – Singleton sadly left us in 2019 at the young age of 51. He was nominated for Best Screenplay and Best Director for this film. This tribute serves as a reminder of how talented he was.
- Theatrical Press Conference – Circa 1991, this is a 25 minute press conference with Director John Singleton as they address some of the race-related shootings that occurred around the time of the release.
- Behind-the-Scenes Featurette – This five minute piece was done in tandem with the release of the movie. It’s dated, for sure, but has some interviews with Singleton and selected members of the crew.
- Theatrical Trailer
Disc Two (Blu-ray)
- Audio Commentary – Writer/Director John Singleton’s comments are about as real as they get. He speaks of stories from the production and Singleton does keep the pace moving. It’s the same track that’s appeared on previously-released discs, but it’ll serve as a lasting memory to the talented director.
- The Enduring Significance of Boyz N the Hood – This contains even more interviews with the cast and crew looking back yet again. This is a good counterpart to the pre-existing documentary.
- Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend – A retrospective documentary on the film’s production. It’s a bit nostalgic and informative at the same time and at 45 minutes is a bit lengthy too.
- Deleted Scenes – Two total, neither of which add anything to the film.
- Audition Videos – These feature Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Tyra Ferrell
- Music Video – Compton’s Most Wanted – “Growin’ up in the Hood”
- Music Video – Tevin Campbell – “Just Ask Me To”
The Bottom Line
This is it. If you’ve been waiting patiently for the most definitive version of Boyz N the Hood, your wait is over. Sony’s 4K presentation has exceeded all expectations both visually and sonically. Add to that, the inclusion of some more (new) supplements on the 4K disc which added to the already robust Blu-ray make for an all-inclusive package. Run, don’t walk, to pick this one up.