Analysis

Where The Boyz Are: John Singleton Film 'Boyz N the Hood' 1991 Newsweek Review

John Singleton is Still Alive, Despite 'Inaccurate' Reports
Producer/director John Singleton attends the 2018 American Black Film Festival Honors Awards at The Beverly Hilton Hotel on February 25, 2018, in Beverly Hills, California. Reps for Singleton confirmed the director is still alive, but on life support following a stroke. Leon Bennett/Getty Images

There are subtler, more polite movies around, but none made out of such a heart-stopping sense of urgency as John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood. Singleton, a 23-year-old writer/director who graduated a year ago from USC film school, grew up in gang-ridden south-central Los Angeles. His anxious report from the streets conveys in knowing, scary details the precariousness of getting through a day on his home turf, where police choppers circle overhead, corpses appear in the bushes, drugs take a daily toll and an insult can cost you your life.

It's an American coming-of-age story told from a new, black perspective: getting laid is an issue, as always, but staying alive is the first order of business. The boys in this neighborhood won't all make it: Doughboy (the rapper Ice Cube) is headed for a life of crime; his brother Ricky (Morris Chestnut) is on the brink of a football scholarship. Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr.), smart, angry and conflicted, has the advantage of a fiercely protective father (Larry Fishburne), a loving but pontificating patriarch whose didacticism is, at times, inseparable from Singleton's. But this first film has more than good intentions: it's the work of a truly gifted filmmaker. The violence in "Boyz N the Hood" is neither gratuitous nor melodramatic; its aftermath is shattering. Singleton's powerhouse movie has the impact of a stun gun.

Editor's Pick