Menace II Society

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Menace II Society
Menace II Society.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byThe Hughes Brothers
Produced byDarin Scott
Screenplay byTyger Williams
Story byAllen Hughes
Albert Hughes
Tyger Williams
Starring
Music byQDIII
CinematographyLisa Rinzler
Edited byChristopher Koefoed
Distributed byNew Line Cinema
Release date
  • May 26, 1993 (1993-05-26)
Running time
97 minutes
CountryUnited States
LanguageEnglish
Budget$3.5 million
Box office$27.9 million[1]

Menace II Society (pronounced Menace to Society) is a 1993 American teen hood drama film directed by Allen and Albert Hughes[2] in their directorial debut, and starring Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett, Larenz Tate and Samuel L. Jackson. The film is set in Watts and 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 also received positive reviews for its gritty portrayal of urban violence and its powerful underlying messages.

Plot[edit]

The film begins with Kaydee “Caine” Lawson and his best friend Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson entering a liquor store to buy some beer, where a Korean cashier and his wife rush them to pay for their drinks and leave. After their purchase, the cashier insults O-Dog by saying he feels sorry for his mother. Offended, O-Dog briefly argues with the cashier, then kills him and his wife with his gun, takes the surveillance tape, robs the clerk's wallet and the cash register, and flees the store with Caine.

In a flashback, it is revealed that Caine's father was a drug dealer who was killed when Caine was 10, and that his mother was a heroin addict who died of a drug overdose. This led to Caine being raised by his grandparents in the crime-ridden Jordan Downs housing projects.

O-Dog proudly shows off the surveillance tape to his admiring friends, much to Caine's annoyance. Later, as Caine and his cousin Harold are on their way from a party, they are carjacked, resulting in Harold being shot and killed and Caine being wounded. O-Dog learns of the carjackers' whereabouts and he, Caine, and their friend A-Wax, an OG, hunts them down together and killing both of them, getting revenge on Harold's death.

Caine and O-Dog are arrested after a failed car theft attempt, and even though Caine's fingerprints match those taken from a bottle at the liquor store on the night of the robbery, Caine is soon released as the police fails to link them to the crime.

Caine's friends Stacy and Sharif try to convince him to leave with them to Kansas, and both Caine's grandfather and Sharif's father warn Caine that he'll either end up dead or in jail if he doesn't change his ways. Caine, on the other hand, ignores all advice.

After buying a Ford Mustang from a chop shop, Caine carjacks another young black man for his gold Dayton wire wheels and his jewelry, then purchases a large quantity of cocaine that he plans to sell as crack. He also meets a local girl named Ilena and eventually has sex with her. While driving one night, Caine and Sharif are pulled over and beaten by cops. The two are dumped in a Hispanic neighborhood, but the Hispanic gang members were nice enough take them to a hospital instead of beating them even more as the cops anticipated. While Caine is hospitalized, his friend Ronnie tells him that she has found a job in Atlanta and invites him to come with her. Caine is hesitant at first, but ultimately agrees to go.

At a party, Chauncey, a confederate of Caine in an insurance scam, drunkenly makes sexual moves towards Ronnie. Caine comes to her rescue and starts pistol-whipping Chauncey. Ilena calls to inform Caine that she is pregnant, but he refuses to believe that the child is his and drops her. Chauncey retaliates for Caine's assault by sending a copy of the surveillance tape to the police. Meanwhile, Caine beats up Ilena's cousin when he confronts him outside Caine's grandparents' house about the pregnancy. Caine's grandfather witnesses the beating, and, having had enough of Caine, kicks him out of the house. Ilena's cousin gathers his friends to get revenge on Caine.

As Caine and Ronnie are getting ready to leave for Atlanta, Ilena's cousin and his friends drive by Ronnie's house and engage a drive-by shootout, with O-Dog shooting back at the attackers. Sharif is killed and Caine is mortally wounded when he exposed himself trying to protect Ronnie's son. As Caine slowly dies in Stacy's arms, he sees flashbacks of the events that led to this outcome. Caine recalls his grandfather asking him if he cares whether he lives or dies, and he realizes in his dying moment that he does.

Cast[edit]

Production[edit]

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.[3] 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,[4]

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.

Shakur wanted to play O-Dog. Shakur and Spice 1 were later replaced with Larenz Tate and Tyrin Turner, respectively.[5]

Reception[edit]

Menace II Society received generally positive reviews from critics.[6] The film scored an 84% 'fresh' rating on Rotten Tomatoes, based on 37 reviews. Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum stated, "This is a powerful, convincing, and terrifying look at teenage crime in contemporary Watts."[7] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave it a positive review, stating, "Menace II Society is bleak, brilliant, and unsparing."[8] 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."[9] 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".[10][11]

However, the film has also received some negative reviews. Geoff Andrew of Time Out stated, "Regrettably, the Hughes Brothers' first feature is a compendium of clichés."[12] Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "If Menace II Society is terrific on ambiance, it is considerably less successful in revealing character."[13] At the 1994 MTV Movie Awards, the film was awarded Best Movie, beating out the likes of Philadelphia, Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.[14] The film also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography.[15]

Soundtrack[edit]

A soundtrack containing hip hop music was released on May 26, 1993, by Jive Records. It peaked at #11 on the Billboard 200 and #1 on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop Albums.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Menace II Society (1993)". Box Office Mojo. 1993-07-27. Retrieved 2010-09-16.
  2. ^ "Menace II Society". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Jet – Google Books. Johnson Publishing Company. 1994-02-28. p. 18. Retrieved 2011-08-10 – via Internet Archive. tupac to play shariff.
  4. ^ "2pac Turning Down Menace 2 Society". YouTube. Retrieved November 21, 2013.
  5. ^ Randall Sullivan, Labyrinth: A Detective Investigates the Murders of Tupac Shakur and Notorious B.I.G ... page 80
  6. ^ "Violent 'Menace' drawing accolades from unlikely fans". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2010-10-03.
  7. ^ "Blog Archive » Menace II Society". JonathanRosenbaum.net. 1993-06-04. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  8. ^ Owen Gleiberman (1993-05-28). "Menace II Society Review | Movie Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  9. ^ "Welcome to Emanuel Levy » Menace II Society". Emanuellevy.com. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  10. ^ "'SCHINDLER'S LIST' TOPS SISKEL'S & EBERT'S EAGERLY AWAITED '10 BEST FILMS OF 1992' – Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. 1993-12-27. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  11. ^ "Menace II Society :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. 1993-05-26. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  12. ^ "Menace II Society Review. Movie Reviews – Film – Time Out London". Timeout.com. Archived from the original on 2012-10-18. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  13. ^ 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.
  14. ^ "1994 MTV Movie Awards | Past Movie Awards | Awards Show Highlights and Winners". MTV.com. 1994-06-04. Retrieved 2011-08-10.
  15. ^ "'Banquet,' 'Ruby' Lead '93 Spirit Nominees". Los Angeles Times. 1994-01-14. Retrieved 2012-08-15.

External links[edit]