Menace II Society

Menace II Society (pronounced Menace to Society) is a 1993 American teen hood drama film directed by the Hughes Brothers[2] in their directorial debut. The film is set in Watts and Crenshaw neighborhoods of Los Angeles, and follows the life of Kaydee "Caine" Lawson (Tyrin Turner) and his close friends. It gained notoriety for its scenes of violence, profanity and drug-related content, and also received critical acclaim for the performances of Turner, Pinkett, and Tate, the direction, and its realistic portrayal of urban violence and powerful underlying messages.

Menace II Society
Menace II Society.JPG
Theatrical release poster
Directed byThe Hughes Brothers
Screenplay byTyger Williams
Story byAllen Hughes
Albert Hughes
Tyger Williams
Produced byDarin Scott
Starring
CinematographyLisa Rinzler
Edited byChristopher Koefoed
Music byQDIII
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$30 million[1]

PlotEdit

Kaydee “Caine” Lawson and his best friend Kevin "O-Dog" Anderson enter a liquor store to buy some malt liquor, where a Korean cashier and his wife rush them to pay for their drinks and leave, suspecting that they might be trying to steal something. After their purchase, the cashier unintentionally insults and provokes O-Dog by saying, "I feel sorry for your mother." Consequently, O-Dog argues with him, fatally shoots both him and his wife, takes the surveillance tape, robs the clerk's wallet and the cash register, and flees with Caine.

In a voice-over, Caine reveals that his father Tat, a drug dealer, was killed in a drug deal gone wrong when Caine was 10, and his mother Karen, a heroin addict, died of a drug overdose. This led to his grandparents raising him in the crime-ridden Jordan Downs housing projects.

O-Dog flaunts the surveillance tape to his admiring friends, greatly annoying Caine. Later, Caine and his cousin Harold are carjacked en route from a party, with Caine being wounded and Hadold being murdered. After learning the carjackers' whereabouts, O-Dog, Caine, and their friend A-Wax, an OG, hunt them down and kill them, avenging Harold's death.

Caine and O-Dog are arrested after a failed car theft attempt. Caine's fingerprints match those taken from a beer bottle he dropped in the liquor store on the night of the murders, and though he is interrogated by a detective who tricks him by changing the times to confuse him, he soon walks free nonetheless as the police fail to link him. Caine's friends, Stacy and Sharif, try to convince him to leave with them to Kansas, and both his grandfather and Sharif's father warn him that he will either end up dead or in jail unless he changes his ways. Caine, nevertheless, 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, planning to sell it as crack. Caine also meets a local girl named Illena and eventually has sex with her. While driving one night, he and Sharif are pulled over and beaten by cops. The two are dumped in a Hispanic neighborhood, but the Hispanic gang members surprisingly take them to a hospital rather than beat them further as feared. During his hospitalization, Caine's friend Ronnie invites him to accompany her to Atlanta, where she has found a job. Initially hesitant, he ultimately agrees.

At a party, Chauncey, a confederate of Caine in an insurance scam, drunkenly moves sexually towards Ronnie. Caine rescues her and starts pistol-whipping Chauncey, prompting Stacy and Sharif to restrain him. Illena calls to inform Caine of her pregnancy, but he denies paternity and drops her. Chauncey retaliates for Caine's assault by sending a copy of the surveillance tape to the police, who begin hunting Caine and O-Dog, now wanted for the liquor store crimes. Doc, Caine & O-Dog's friend, alerts O-Dog and others that Chauncey has turned the surveillance tape over to the police, making O-Dog and Caine hide out at Ronnie's and other friends' houses and O-Dog wanting to murder Chauncey if he doesn't get caught by the police first.

Meanwhile, Caine beats up Illena's cousin when he confronts Caine outside his grandparents' house about the pregnancy. After witnessing the beating, Caine's grandparents decide that it's best for him to not live with them anymore, despite his pleas to stay until he moves to Atlanta. Meanwhile, Illena's cousin gathers his friends to get revenge on Caine.

As Caine and Ronnie are preparing to leave for Atlanta, Illena's cousin and his friends drive by Ronnie's house and engage in a drive-by shootout. Sharif is killed instantly, while Caine is fatally wounded trying to protect Ronnie's son, and Stacy and Ronnie come running out of the house screaming for help. O-Dog shoots back at the attackers and is unharmed. As Caine slowly dies, he recalls his grandfather asking him if he cares whether he lives or dies, and he realizes in his dying moment that he does, but now it's too late.

CastEdit

ProductionEdit

Originally, rapper MC Ren was set to play A-Wax, but later turned down the role when he joined the Nation of Islam in late 1992. Rappers Spice 1 and Tupac Shakur were set to play Caine and Sharif respectively, 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 Hughes, resulting in Shakur being found guilty of assault and battery.[3][4] Shakur did not want to play the role of Sharif, as he did not agree (in regard to the authenticity of such a role) that a Muslim could also be a gangbanger. Shakur wanted to play O-Dog.[5]

ReceptionEdit

Menace II Society received generally positive reviews from critics.[6] The film has an 84% approval score on Rotten Tomatoes based on 43 reviews, with an average rating of 7.40/10. The consensus reads, "Told with grit and verve by the Hughes brothers in their feature debut, Menace II Society is a gangland epic that breathes with authenticity while steeped in style."[7]

Chicago Reader critic Jonathan Rosenbaum stated, "This is a powerful, convincing, and terrifying look at teenage crime in contemporary Watts."[8] Owen Gleiberman from Entertainment Weekly gave it a positive review, stating, "Menace II Society is bleak, brilliant, and unsparing."[9]

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."[10] 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".[11][12]

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."[13] Stephen Holden of The New York Times stated, "If Menace II Society is terrific on ambiance, it is considerably less successful in revealing character."[14] At the 1994 MTV Movie Awards, the film was awarded Best Movie, beating out the likes of Philadelphia, Jurassic Park and Schindler's List.[15] The film also won an Independent Spirit Award for Best Cinematography and was nominated for Best First Feature, but lost to El Mariachi (the first installment in the Robert Rodriguez's Mexico Trilogy).[16]

The film grossed $27.9 million in the United States and Canada but only $1.6 million internationally for a worldwide total of $29.5 million.[17][1]

SoundtrackEdit

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.

Home mediaEdit

The director's cut of Menace II Society was released on LaserDisc in 1994 via The Criterion Collection.[18] In August 2021, Criterion announced that Menace II Society, alongside 5 other films, would be released as a part of its first 4K Ultra HD releases. Criterion indicated each title will be available in a 4K UHD+Blu-ray combo pack including a 4K UHD disc of the feature film as well as the film and special features on the companion Blu-ray. The titles were released in November 2021.[19]

LegacyEdit

American rapper and businessman Kanye West noted the film as one of his "most-watched" films, as one of his all-time favorite films in an episode of the Bret Easton Ellis Podcast.[20]

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ a b "Top 100 grossers worldwide, '93-94". Variety. October 17, 1994. p. M-56.
  2. ^ "Menace II Society". Turner Classic Movies. Retrieved March 15, 2016.
  3. ^ Jet – Google Books. Johnson Publishing Company. February 28, 1994. p. 18. Retrieved August 10, 2011 – via Internet Archive. tupac to play shariff.
  4. ^ Markman, Rob (May 30, 2013). "Tupac Would Have 'Outshined' 'Menace II Society,' Director Admits". MTV. Archived from the original on January 1, 2016.
  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. July 1, 1993. Retrieved October 3, 2010.
  7. ^ "Menace II Society (1993)". Rotten Tomatoes. Fandango. Retrieved November 27, 2021.
  8. ^ "Blog Archive » Menace II Society". JonathanRosenbaum.net. June 4, 1993. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  9. ^ Owen Gleiberman (May 28, 1993). "Menace II Society Review | Movie Reviews and News". EW.com. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  10. ^ "Welcome to Emanuel Levy » Menace II Society". Emanuellevy.com. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  11. ^ "'SCHINDLER'S LIST' TOPS SISKEL'S & EBERT'S EAGERLY AWAITED '10 BEST FILMS OF 1993' – Free Online Library". Thefreelibrary.com. December 27, 1993. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  12. ^ "Menace II Society :: rogerebert.com :: Reviews". Rogerebert.suntimes.com. May 26, 1993. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  13. ^ "Menace II Society Review. Movie Reviews – Film – Time Out London". Timeout.com. Archived from the original on October 18, 2012. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  14. ^ Holden, Stephen (May 8, 1992). "Movie Review - Menace II Society - Review/Film; Teen-Agers Living Under the Gun - NYTimes.com". Movies.nytimes.com. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  15. ^ "1994 MTV Movie Awards | Past Movie Awards | Awards Show Highlights and Winners". MTV.com. June 4, 1994. Retrieved August 10, 2011.
  16. ^ "'Banquet,' 'Ruby' Lead '93 Spirit Nominees". Los Angeles Times. January 14, 1994. Retrieved August 15, 2012.
  17. ^ "Menace II Society (1993)". Box Office Mojo. July 27, 1993. Retrieved September 16, 2010.
  18. ^ Bennett, Dan (February 18, 1994). "Menace II Society". North County Times. p. 90. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  19. ^ Machkovech, Sam (August 11, 2021). "Criterion announces support for 4K UHD Blu-ray, beginning with Citizen Kane". Ars Technica. Retrieved August 12, 2021.
  20. ^ Amanda Dobbins. "Kanye Did a Podcast with Bret Easton Ellis". Vulture. Retrieved 2022-05-05.

External linksEdit