Menace II Society
|Menace II Society|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||The Hughes Brothers|
|Produced by||Darin Scott|
|Screenplay by||Tyger Williams|
|Story by||Allen Hughes
Charles S. Dutton
|Music by||QD III|
|Edited by||Christopher Koefoed|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Running time||104 minutes|
|Box office||$27.9 million|
Menace II Society is a 1993 drama/hood film and the directorial debut of twin brothers Allen and Albert Hughes. Set in South Central Los Angeles, the film follows the life of a hoodlum named Caine Lawson and his close friends. It gained notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity, and drug-related content. Menace II Society was released in May 1993 to critical acclaim for its gritty portrayal of urban violence and its powerful underlying messages.
Caine Lawson and his best friend Kevin Anderson (O-Dog) enter a local store to buy malt liquor, as the Korean storekeeper and his wife eye them suspiciously. As they begin to leave an argument ensues where the shopkeeper says "I feel sorry for your mother", so O-Dog shoots him and his wife. He then takes the store video surveillance tape and empties the cash register. In a flashback, it is revealed that Caine’s father was a dope dealer who was killed in a drug deal when Caine was ten, and his mother was a heroin addict who later died of an overdose, as a result he went to go live with his grandparents. Later, Caine and his cousin Harold are carjacked and Harold is murdered, with Caine shot. O-Dog informs Caine that he has learned the identity of the carjackers. He and Caine then find the assailants and kill them.
Caine and O-Dog are hired by a local hood Chauncy, for a car insurance scheme but are caught in the process and arrested by police. A detective attempts to link Caine to the store killings by matching fingerprints. Once released, Caine, buys a new car from a chop shop and robs a local for his Dayton wheels. Caine then purchases a large quantity of cocaine to cook into crack cocaine in order to sell. Caine begins to enjoy his new hustler life with his crew, meeting a local girl named Ilena. Caine's friend Ronnie tells him that she has found a job in Atlanta and invites him to come with her. Later, Caine tells Ronnie that he will accompany her to Atlanta.
Before leaving for Atlanta, Caine gets into an altercation with Ilena's cousin, who comes to Caine's house. They have a small exchange with Ilena's cousin berating Caine to which Caine replies "So what, now we're going to fight over a bitch?", after that Caine cheapshots Ilena's cousin and proceeds to kick him while he is down. Moments later, it is shown that Ilena's cousin says he has to "take care of his business", leading the events ahead.
Ilena's cousin and a gang of gunmen execute a drive-by shooting on the house during which Sharif is killed and Caine is fatally wounded, just as Caine is packing up the car to move to Atlanta. As Caine slowly dies in Stacy's arms, seeing flashbacks of the events that led to this final moment, he realizes that "in the end it all catches up with you".
- Blak Man - Beta Eliud
- Tyrin Turner - Kaydee (Caine) Lawson
- Jada Pinkett - Ronnie
- Larenz Tate - Kevin (O-Dog) Anderson
- Samuel L. Jackson - Tat Lawson
- MC Eiht - A-Wax
- Glenn Plummer - Pernell
- Clifton Powell - Chauncy
- Marilyn Coleman - Mrs. Lawson
- Arnold Johnson - Thomas Lawson
- Pooh-Man - Doc
- Julian Roy Doster - Anthony
- Too Short - Lew-Loc
- Jermaine "Huggy" Hopkins - Tyrone
- Khandi Alexander - Karen Lawson
- Vonte Sweet - Sharif Butler
- Ryan Williams - Stacy
- Bill Duke - Detective
- Dwayne L. Barnes - Basehead
- Charles S. Dutton - Mr. Butler
- Garen Holoman - Junior
- Brandon Hammond - Five Year Old Caine
- Saafir - Harold Lawson
- Cynthia Calhoun - Jackee
- Erin Leshawn Wiley - Ilena
- Samuel Monroe Jr. - Ilena's Cousin
- Clifton Collins, Jr. - Vato #2
Originally, MC Ren was set to play A-Wax, rapper Spice 1 to play Caine, and Tupac Shakur to play Sharif, but they were later fired with director Allen Hughes claiming that Shakur was causing trouble on the set. Six months after the firing, Shakur assaulted the director, resulting in Shakur being found guilty of assault and battery. Shakur did not want to play the role of Sharif, as he did not agree (in regards to the authenticity of such a role) that a Muslim could also be a gangbanger. He is quoted as saying the following in a video interview,
"I said okay, cool... fire me from this $100,000 movie, because I ain't goin' play no gangbanger who's a Muslim. There ain't no such thing, I refuse to play parts that don't exist. I will be a young nigga, but will be a real young nigga."
The movie featured realistic dialogue, and is known for its crude and profane language. The word "fuck" and its derivatives are used 300 times in the 97-minute film. This was a record up to that time and the film still holds one of the highest "fuck" per minute rates at 3.07 times per minute. The movie was edited for an R-rating; edited scenes included Samuel L. Jackson's character's killing of the man in the poker scene, the shooting of the red-sweatered gang member by A-Wax, and Caine's death at the end. This was all reinstated in the director's cut. The director's cut was first released on laserdisc, then released on DVD in 2008. The film's first DVD release was the R-rated theatrical version. The director's cut has since been re-rated R for strong bloody violence, drug use and pervasive language (instead of strong violence, drug use and language). An additional scene was also added, showing Caine and O-Dog breaking into a car in the garage. But according to the Hughes brothers, a prison riot scene, which was cut by the studio to avoid an NC-17 rating, has not been restored.
Menace II Society received generally positive reviews from critics. The film scored an 85% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 35 reviews. Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum stated, "This is a powerful, convincing, and terrifying look at teenage crime in contemporary Watts." Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave it a positive review, stating, "Menace II Society is bleak, brilliant, and unsparing." EmanuelLevy.com gave the film an A, saying it is "The most stunning feature debut in the new African American cinema, even more so than Boyz n the Hood to which the coming of age feature bears thematic resemblance." The film was placed on both Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert's 10 best films of 1993 lists, with Ebert praising "the way the filmmakers tell Caine's story without making him seem either the hero or victim".
The film received some negative reviews. Geoff Andrew of Time Out stated, "Regrettably, the Hughes Brothers' first feature is a compendium of cliches." Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "If Menace II Society is terrific on ambiance, it is considerably less successful in revealing character." At the 1994 MTV Movie Awards, the film was awarded Best Movie, beating out the likes of Philadelphia, Jurassic Park and Schindler's List. The film also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography.
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- "1994 MTV Movie Awards | Past Movie Awards | Awards Show Highlights and Winners". MTV.com. 1994-06-04. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
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- Menace II Society at the Internet Movie Database
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- Menace II Society at Box Office Mojo