This Day in Film: Menace II SocietyPublished by Clay Cane on Wednesday, May 26, 2010 at 8:19 am.
Exactly 17 years ago today the urban-hood drama, Menace II Society, hit theatres nationwide. The film was Allen and Albert Hughes‘ directorial debut, when they were only 20 years old and made on a budget of $3.5 million. Surprising to some, the Hughes Brothers were not from South Central, Los Angeles, which is where the movie was based, but raised in Detroit, Michigan and an area east of Los Angeles called Pomona. Also, they have a diverse background, their father being African-American and mother Armenian.
Menace II Society is the story of Caine Lawson, a recent high school graduate who is desperate to escape the violence and poverty of South Central, Los Angeles. Told through voice overs and in retrospect, the film depicted the disturbing reality of urban neighborhoods with extreme violence that topped the other films of its kind — Menace II Society made Boyz ‘N The Hood seem like a Disney movie. The flick made a record for its time by using the F-word 300 times in a 97-minute film.
Menace II Society came out in time when “gangsta” films were all the rage and making tons of money at the box office. Boyz ‘N the Hood and New Jack City were released just a couple years before and everyone wanted to duplicate it. However, the Hughes Brothers managed to find a unique and fresh way to tell the story, which resonated with audiences across all walks of life.
While the movie was hit with heavy criticism for supposedly glamorizing violence, the story scored well with the critics and grossed just short of $28 million at the box office. Menace II Society also won best movie at the 1994 MTV Movie Awards.
The flick launched the film career of Jada Pinkett and made Larenz Tate one of the most popular Black actors of the ’90s. Originally, 2pac was supposed to play the lead role but after he got into a fight with Allen Hughes, he was dropped from the project. Tyrin Turner replaced 2Pac.
Menace II Society is considered an urban classic. Check out the trailer!