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Blu-ray Reviews

Boyz N The Hood Blu-ray Review

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#1 of 4 Richard Gallagher

Richard Gallagher


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Posted July 17 2011 - 01:29 PM


Boyz N The Hood

Studio: Sony/Columbia Year: 1991
Rated: R
Program Length: 112 minutes                          Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 1080p
Languages: English DTS-HD 5.1 MA, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Thai, German, Italian Dolby Digital 5.1
Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Portuguese, Spanish, Arabic, Chinese, Danish, Dutch, Finnish, German, Hindi, Italian, Korean, Norwegian, Swedish, Thai, Turkish

The Program

Why is it that there's a gun shop on almost every corner in this community? They want us to kill ourselves. - Furious Styles

Director John Singleton's debut film, Boyz N The Hood, is a devastating portrait of young black men trying to grown up and survive in South Central Los Angeles, an area dominated by a culture of drugs, alcohol, guns and violence. The film focuses on three young men who face uncertain futures. Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding, Jr.) is the son of divorced parents, Reva Styles (Angela Bassett) and Furious Styles (Laurence Fishburne). Reva originally had custody of Tre, but she found that being a single mother while trying to pursue her education was an impossible task. Consequently, she turned over custody to Furious, who is determined to raise his son to responsible adulthood. Furious and Tre live across the street from Ricky Baker ((Morris Chestnut) and his half-brother "Doughboy" (Ice Cube), who are being raised by a single mom. One constant in the neighborhood is the sound of gunfire, sirens and police helicopters.

The three young men seem as if they should be destined for very different lives. Tre is an intelligent, hard-working high school student who has kept out of trouble and generally has lived up to his father's expectations. Ricky is a star football player who is being recruited by the University of Southern California, but he is a mediocre student who may not be able to get a sufficiently high SAT score to qualify for an athletic scholarship. He and his live-in girlfriend also are raising an infant with the help of Ricky's mom. Doughboy has been in reform school and jail for much of his life, and now he is an aimless young man who deals drugs, drinks to excess and cruises the streets with his equally shiftless friends at night.

However, the film is really about The Hood - the rough South Central L.A. neighborhood where a wrong look or an idle comment can result in violent retribution. As boys growing up in The Hood, Tre, Ricky and Doughboy were bullied by teenagers and became accustomed to seeing fights break out over minor disagreements. In one particularly chilling scene, as youngsters they are led into a vacant lot to view the decomposing body of a young man who was shot to death. A crack-smoking prostitute who lives on the street allows her young child to wander into the street. There seems to be no refuge, as even a black policeman who regularly patrols the area treats the residents with contempt.

The Hood is a place where just reaching the age of 20 is an accomplishment for a man. Temptation is everywhere as prostitution, drugs and gangs abound. Options are limited. Ricky wants to become a professional football player, but what if he cannot even get into college? What then? He is in high school and already has a child to think about. Tre has a realistic opportunity to earn a college degree, but can he get through high school without falling prey to the vices and dangers inherent in the area where he lives? And what of Doughboy, who seemingly has no motivation to break free from a life of crime?

Boyz N The Hood features outstanding acting and its realism is heightened by the location filming in Los Angeles. The violence is at times shocking, not because it is unusually graphic but because it sometimes occurs with virtually no provocation. South Central L.A is shown to be a neighborhood where senseless violence is the first resort, and where lives are discarded as easily as yesterday's newspaper. It is not a perfect film - a sub-plot about Tre's romance with a girl who wants to save herself for marriage is clichéd and predictable - but it is a powerful and influential film. Even director Singleton admits that he was surprised to learn that there was a wide audience for a film about the plight of inner-city blacks. Boyz N The Hood helped to launch Cuba Gooding, Jr. to stardom, and Ice Cube demonstrates natural acting ability in his film debut. Laurence Fishburne is a suitably strong and steady father figure, although I found myself wondering why his character apparently made no effort over the years to move to a better neighborhood.

Boyz N The Hood is an impressive achievement for first-time filmmaker Singleton and is an insightful look at a way of life which is foreign to most Americans. It also is an impassioned indictment of the culture of violence which continues to plague far too much of our society. In an ironic twist, one of the supporting actors in the film, Dedrick Gobert, was shot and killed during an argument while attending a drag race at a California race track in 1994. Senseless violence, to be sure.

The Video

This is a typically solid Blu-ray presentation from Sony. The image is generally sharp and detailed, with just some occasional softness which is probably attributable to the source material. The picture appears to be properly framed. Colors are solid and accurate, contrast is strong, black levels are solid, and shadow detail is very good. There are no spectacular eye-catching scenes, as this is a gritty film which looks the part. There is no evidence of excessive DNR or other digital anomalies, and as is usually the case for a Sony transfer it retains an appropriate level of film grain.

The Audio

The lossless 5.1 DTA-HD MA audio is very good, and the surround channels are effectively utilized to immerse the viewer into the action. The audio really comes to life during the scenes which involve gunfire, and the seemingly omnipresent sounds of police sirens and helicopters serve to reinforce the notion that living in a residential section of South Central L.A. has little in common with life in quiet suburbs. Dialogue is clear and easily understandable for the most part, but there are optional subtitles in seventeen different languages for those who need them. There is a great deal of music in this film, and the soundtrack gives it a pleasing soundstage.

The Supplements

This Blu-ray release includes a satisfying selection of extras.

First up is an informative commentary track by director John Singleton.

"The Enduring Significance of Boyz N The Hood" is a new 28-minute featurette in which Singleton, Gooding, Chestnut, Fishburne, Ice Cube and others discuss what the film continues to mean to them after twenty years. Ice Cube candidly discusses the fact that he thought that no one outside of the black community would care about the film, and he was astonished when it reached a wide audience.

Sony has included audition videos of Ice Cube, Angela Bassett, Morris Chestnut and Tyra Ferrell (who gives a very effective supporting performance as the mother of Ricky and "Doughboy").

"Friendly Fire: Making of an Urban Legend" is a standard-definition "making of" featurette which was produced in 2001. It has a running time of 43 minutes and all of the major characters and many of the supporting characters are discussed in detail.

There are two deleted scenes, both of which are presented in somewhat fuzzy standard definition. One involves Tre visiting his mom, who by this time has bought a very nice home of her own. The other scene has Furious trying to talk some sense into "Doughboy." Neither scene adds anything of significance to the film, and the scene with Tre's mother only raises more questions about why he continues to live in South Central L.A. when she has literally risen above it all.

Finally, two standard-definition music videos feature songs from the soundtrack by Tevin Campbell and Compton's Most Wanted.

It appears that BD-Live features will be enabled on the release date.

The Packaging

The single disc is packaged in a standard Blu-ray keep case.

The Final Analysis

Boyz N The Hood is a revelation, an unflinching and sometimes shocking look at a neighborhood where life all too often is hardly valued at all. It is a powerful film, and there is great satisfaction in seeing the performances of a number of excellent actors who were just getting their careers underway. This film has deservedly received solid Blu-ray treatment from Sony to mark the 20th anniversary of its release.

Equipment used for this review:

Panasonic DMP-BD50 Blu-ray player
Panasonic Viera TC-P46G15 Plasma display, calibrated to THX specification by Gregg Loewen
Yamaha HTR-5890 THX Surround Receiver
BIC Acoustech speakers
Interconnects: Monster Cable

Release Date: July 19, 2011

Rich Gallagher

#2 of 4 mattCR


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Posted July 17 2011 - 02:17 PM

Good review.  Gives me hope that 'Higher Learning" will come to Bluray.


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#3 of 4 Neil Middlemiss

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Posted July 17 2011 - 02:56 PM

Thanks for the review Rich. A recent 'Behind the Music' featuring Ice Cube included comments from director Singleton where Cube's first audition was absolutely terrible - apparently Cube didn't read the script before hand feeling that he could just read the lines the day of and be done. Singleton asked him to go away, read the script (connect with the character) and try again. He did, and nailed it.

Such a terrific film.

Like Matt, I would like to see Higher Learning make its way to blu, though I was never a fan of Tyra Banks in that one...

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#4 of 4 WinstonCely


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Posted July 18 2011 - 09:24 AM

I remember watching this when it was first out on - gasp - VHS, and was blown away despite being a young, middle class, white kid from South Carolina. A place where typically the most danger you're likely to face is someone's homemade BBQ sauce. However, I watched it recently with my wife who had not seen it, and although overall it's still pretty good, I downgraded my rating of it. Much of the script, not just the sub-plot romance, seemed heavy handed and reaching for a stylized sentimentality instead of sticking with it's more realistic starkness. Still a good flick, but it does seem to be more of a time-capsul now-a-days.