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
|Edited by||Christopher Koefoed|
|Distributed by||New Line Cinema|
|Box office||$27.9 million|
Menace II Society (pronounced Menace to Society) is a 1993 American hood drama thriller film directed by Allen and Albert Hughes in their directorial debut, and starring Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett, Larenz Tate and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is set in the 1990's South Central Los Angeles, California. The film follows the life of a young man named Kaydee "Caine" Lawson and his close friends. It gained notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity, and drug-related content. It 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, along with A-Wax, 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, which includes O-Dog being arrested for the Korean store murders, he realizes that "in the end it all catches up with you".
- Tyrin Turner – Kaydee "Caine" Lawson
- Brandon Hammond – Five Year Old Caine
- Jada Pinkett – Ronnie
- Larenz Tate – Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson
- Samuel L. Jackson – Tat Lawson
- MC Eiht – A-Wax
- Glenn Plummer – James "Pernell" Richards
- Clifton Powell – Chauncy
- Marilyn Coleman – Mrs. Lawson
- Arnold Johnson – Thomas Lawson
- Pooh-Man – Doc
- Julian Roy Doster – Anthony
- Too Short – Lew-Loc
- Khandi Alexander – Karen Lawson
- Vonte Sweet – Sharif Butler
- Ryan Williams – Stacy
- Bill Duke – Detective
- Dwayne L. Barnes – Basehead
- Charles S. Dutton – Mr. Butler
- Martin Davis – Carjacking Victim
- Garen Holoman – Junior
- Saafir – Harold Lawson
- Cynthia Calhoun – Jackee
- Erin Leshawn Wiley – Ilena
- Samuel Monroe Jr. – Ilena's Cousin
- Clifton Collins, Jr. – Vato #2
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Originally, MC Ren was set to play A-Wax, but later turned down the role when he joined the Nation of Islam in late 1992. Rapper Spice 1 was set to play Caine, and Tupac Shakur to play Sharif, but they were later fired with director Allen Hughes stating that Shakur was causing trouble on the set. Shakur was angry for not being told why Sharif would turn Muslim. 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."
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 1992 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.
- List of films featuring surveillance
- Menace II Society (soundtrack)
- Boyz N The Hood
- New Jack City
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- Randall Sullivan, Labyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G... page 80
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- "Menace II Society :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. 1993-05-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "Menace II Society Review. Movie Reviews – Film – Time Out London". Timeout.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- Holden, Stephen (1992-05-08). "Movie Review - Menace II Society - Review/Film; Teen-Agers Living Under the Gun - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "1994 MTV Movie Awards | Past Movie Awards | Awards Show Highlights and Winners". MTV.com. 1994-06-04. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
- "'Banquet,' 'Ruby' Lead '93 Spirit Nominees". Los Angeles Times. 1994-01-14. Retrieved 2012-08-15.
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