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Film / Boyz n the Hood

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"Increase the Peace"

Boyz n the Hood is a 1991 crime/drama film, and John Singleton's directorial debut. Often praised as the best 'hood film ever made, it enjoyed widespread acclaim from critics and the public alike, and helped jump-start the "urban crime drama" genre. It also received two Academy Award nominations (for Best Director and Best Original Screenplay), making Singleton the youngest person (at 23 years old) and the first African-American to be nominated for the Best Director award.

Crenshaw, a neighborhood in South Central Los Angeles, is a place where drive-by shootings and unemployment are rampant. But it's also a place where harmony coexists with adversity, especially for three young men growing up there: Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr..), who aspires for a brighter future; his best friend Ricky Baker (Morris Chestnut), a college-bound teenage father; and Ricky's half-brother Darren "Doughboy" Baker (Ice Cube), an unambitious drug dealer. In a world where a trip to the store can end in death, the friends have diverse reactions to their bleak surroundings. Tre's resolve is strengthened by a strong father (Laurence Fishburne) who does his best to keep him on the right track, but the lessons Tre learns are put to the test when tragedy strikes close to home, and violence seems like the only answer.

This film provides examples of:

  • The '90s: One of the decade's defining movies, recognized as such by as esteemed an authority as the Library of Congress, which preserved it in its National Film Registry.
  • Abusive Parents:
    • Brenda is an emotionally abusive mother to Doughboy.
    • A severely neglectful example in the form of Sheryl, who would rather get high than properly care for her kids. In fact, her first appearance was because Tre came to return one of her kids who wandered into the streets.
  • Actor Allusion: Furious is a Vietnam veteran, a reference to Laurence Fishburne's role as Tyrone "Clean" Miller in the Vietnam War epic Apocalypse Now.
  • Ain't Too Proud to Beg: One of the people who (presumably) helped kill Ricky, begs Doughboy to not shoot him, citing that he wasn't the one who pulled the trigger that ended Ricky's life. Doughboy just shoots him anyway.
  • Amicable Exes: Downplayed with Furious and Reva. While Reva trusts Furious to take care of their son and they appear to have remained friends, they also get into their fair share of fights when it comes to raising Tre.
  • Astonishingly Appropriate Appearance: During the first scene where the main characters appear as teenagers, Doughboy is wearing a Detroit Tigers hat, with the team's "D" logo matching the first letter of his real name (Darrin) and nickname. Chris is wearing a hat that reads "I'm Chris," while Dooky is wearing a T-shirt with his nickname on it.
  • Badass Pacifist: Furious is an impressive and respected man because of his intellect and opting for cooperation among the community, not because of violence.
  • Bigot with a Badge: Officer Coffey is a black police officer with a virulent hatred of black people. Coffey himself, while brutalizing Tre, claims that he's a sadist. Even his (white) partner looks uncomfortable with this.
  • Bittersweet Ending: Ricky and Doughboy are both murdered, but Tre and Brandi make it out of the 'hood and go on to college.
  • Black-and-Grey Morality: The ghetto is filled with violence, police brutality, and murder. And while Doughboy, Monster, and Dooky aren't "evil", they would be considered thugs and decided to avenge Ricky's murder by murder as well; and didn't show any mercy when one begged for his life.
  • Blatant Lies: In an attempt to impress his open-minded dad who understands that most teens get sexually active at a certain age, Tre, who is still a virgin at that point, lies about a sexual encounter with a girl named Tisha. It only ends up with Tre getting embarrassed when Furious lectures him for not using a condom.
  • Boomerang Bigot: Officer Coffey is a black policeman who shows apathy and hostility to blacks. Especially notable since his white partner is fairly cordial with the people in the neighborhood.
  • Cassandra Truth: Doughboy, accused of killing Ricky, tries to convince his mother and Shanice that he wasn't responsible for the deed, to no avail.
  • Catholic School Girls Rule: Part of Tre's attraction to Brandi is that she's Catholic. Brandi herself subverts this trope, wanting to wait until marriage as her faith dictates. She changes her mind and she and Tre have Their First Time after he's harassed by Officer Coffey.
  • Celebrity Paradox: Doughboy notes some "bumping" music.... by Ice Cube.
  • Character Tics: Whenever Furious is upset (usually at Tre), he's seen rolling some iron-like balls in his hands.
  • Chick Magnet:
    • Gender-inverted. As children, Brandi got the attention of Tre, Ricky, and Doughboy.
    • When Tre makes his introduction as a teenager he gets the attention of three girls. He's also in a relationship with Brandi.
    • Furious is implied to be one — Besides his ex Reva, Brenda is implied to like him, and a phone conversation from Tre and Brandi implies that Brandi's mother likes him too.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The f-word is used an abundant amount of times.
  • Color-Coded for Your Convenience: Though never directly stated, it's implied that Doughboy and his friends (who are frequently shown wearing blue clothing) are members of the Crips, while Ferris and his crew (who wear red clothes and drive a red car) are Bloods.
  • Conditioned to Accept Horror: At the movie's beginning, Tre shows some of his friends a dead body.
  • Cooldown Hug: Furious embraces and comforts his distressed son after discouraging him from pursuing Ferris and his gang for killing Ricky.
  • Crapsack World: The hood is an unforgiving place, barely controlled by law enforcement and full of senseless bloodshed. As the movie's opening statement points out, one out of every twenty-one black American males will be murdered in their lifetime, most dying at the hands of another black male. Doughboy himself laments on the state of the hood and its lack of law enforcement:
    "Either they don't know... don't show... or don't care about what's going on in the 'hood."
  • Creator Cameo: John Singleton plays the mailman.
  • Curb-Stomp Battle: Played for Drama with the fight between Doughboy and Ricky occurring before the latter is murdered by Ferris' crew.
  • Cycle of Revenge: Doughboy, Monster, and Dooky take revenge on Ferris and his cronies for murdering Doughboy's brother (Tre intends to take part at first, but ends up bailing out beforehand). Two weeks later, Doughboy is murdered in turn.
  • Dad the Veteran: Furious served in Vietnam so he could avoid the criminal lifestyle and be someone Tre looks up to. The only time he mentions it is when he warns Tre about the army, but given his stern and disciplined nature (not to mention his unwillingness to shoot an intruder) shades of it do show through.
  • Didn't Think This Through: Ricky, you're a nice guy and all, but when guys are stalking you for a drive by shooting, that is not the time to stop and take a leak and before casually scratching your lotto ticket.
  • Disappeared Dad: This is a deconstruction; one of the film's main themes is that children need their father in order to be properly raised into a responsible person, the absence of one can prove negative for the child. Ricky and Doughboy have different fathers, yet neither is around. In fact, Furious is the only father in the neighborhood. And Ricky becomes one to his son after getting gunned down.
  • Disappointed in You: While Furious doesn't say it to Tre when he comes home from thinking about going after the people who killed Ricky (and he didn't do anything like that), he's angry that his son ran off like he did earlier. He doesn't say a word. He just goes to his room.
  • Disproportionate Retribution: Ferris kills Ricky simply because the latter was calling him out on being a dick for no real reason the night before.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: Tre has kept clear of gang lifestyle despite living in the ghetto thanks to his strict father. When Ricky is gunned down, he almost gets pulled into the violence of his 'hood by seeking revenge alongside Doughboy. Thankfully, he has a change of heart before revenge can be carried out and returns to his father. He goes on to attend college in Atlanta with Brandi, whereas Doughboy unfortunately is killed in retaliation by rival gang members.
  • Face Death with Dignity: Doughboy accepts that someone will eventually get back at him for killing Ferris and his gang as comeuppance for Ricky's death. He gets murdered for it two weeks later.
  • Failure Hero: Tre can't protect Ricky or Doughboy from getting murdered through gang violence. The best he can do is keep himself safe.
  • The Fatalist: Doughboy ultimately adopts this attitude by the end of the film. He realizes that killing Ricky's murderers will lead to someone else killing him in turn and accepts this fate as part of the gangbanging life he's in.
  • Flirty Stepsiblings: Discussed. While on the phone with Brandi, Tre jokingly states that if his dad and her mom get together, they would do the whole "incest thing".
  • Formerly Fat: Not as drastic as some examples, but Doughboy used to be quite tubby (hence the nickname). After the Time Skip, though, he's stout and muscular. In fact, an early scene shows Ice Cube lifting weights in his yard.
  • Glasses Pull:
    Furious: Come with me, I want to show you something.
    Tre: Do we [Tre and Ricky] have a choice?
    Furious: (calmly takes off his reading glasses) No.
  • Good Parents: Differing parenting styles and being divorced aside, Furious and Reva prove to be competent parents to their son, Tre. Disciplining him when he acts out and being affectionate when needed.
  • Hollywood California: To be specific, Crenshaw.
  • Hood Film: Trope Codifier. The film is about a group of teens in South Los Angeles. The film revolves around gang violence. Tre starts out as a Mouthy Kid who is sent to live with his strict father after he gets into a fight at school. He reunites with his friends from his dad's neighborhood, and two of them get in trouble for shoplifting. Seven years in the future, Tre struggles with his relationship and his plans on getting into college as his friends get involved in gang life.
  • I Have No Son!: Doughboy is effectively disowned by his mother after Ricky is murdered, as she accuses him of killing his brother, perhaps considering they had gotten into some fisticuffs beforehand.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: In spite of the friction between the two, deep down, Doughboy cares about Ricky, and doesn't take it well after he learns of the news of his little brother's death.
  • Junkie Parent: Sheryl is an addict whose toddlers are frequently running around unsupervised. Tre narrowly saves one from getting hit by a car.
  • Killed Offscreen: Doughboy himself is murdered as comeuppance for killing Ferris and his gang two weeks prior, but the film doesn't provide any context as to what happened.
  • Libation for the Dead: Doughboy pours out a little of his drink on the curb for his dead brother before it's revealed that Doughboy himself is murdered not long after.
  • Lovable Jock: Ricky. He's extremely nice to virtually everybody. For someone who grew up deep in South Central Los Angeles, his disposition is sunny indeed.
  • Male Gaze: The scene showing the now-teenage Doughboy at the party is preceded by an extreme close-up of a woman's curvy buttocks in extremely tight pants.
  • A Minor Kidroduction: A longer example than most, but the movie opens up with a young Tre and later introduces his equally young friends: Ricky, Doughboy, and Chris.
  • Mouthy Kid: Tre is introduced as a smart-ass, unruly kid who lacks respect for his peers. His suspension from school after he got into a fight with another student triggers his mother into sending him to be raised by Furious so he can be taught responsibility.
  • Nominal Hero: Doughboy isn't exactly one of God's best children, what with being a killer and a dope dealer... but to his defense, he didn't make the ghetto, the ghetto made Doughboy.
  • Non-Indicative Name: Furious is one of the more level-headed characters in the movie. This also counts as an Ironic Nickname.
  • N-Word Privileges: Subverted. The black police officer Coffey uses the N-word freely... because he's a terrifying Boomerang Bigot who hates other blacks. When he uses it, it's with genuine mal intent, and his (white) partner is noticeably unnerved.
  • Only Sane Man:
    • By his late teens, Tre is one of the only guys who doesn't take after his friends in the crime department. Justified, as he was raised by Furious since his pre-teens so he could be properly taught about responsibility.
    • Similarly, Ricky has no interest in a life of crime, being that he's a young father who hopes to get into USC on a football scholarship.
  • Only the Leads Get a Happy Ending: Tre survives the 'hood and goes to college with Brandi. Furious is presumably very proud of this, but it also means that he's all alone now that his son has flown the nest. Ricky & Doughboy are both dead, Brenda has had to bury two of her children, and Ricky's son will grow up without a father.
  • Open-Minded Parent: Furious sees no problem with giving 17-year-old Tre condoms when he has a sexual encounter or moving in with his girlfriend, Brandi.
  • Opt Out: Furious convinces Tre not to take part in the final fight against Ferris. This turns out to be the right choice.
  • Outliving One's Offspring: By the end, Brenda has lost both of her sons.
  • Parental Favoritism: Not just strongly implied — Doughboy straight out says that their mother always loved Ricky best.
  • Pet the Dog: Early in the film, some hoods steal Ricky's football. After trying and failing to get it back (getting Doughboy knocked down and kicked), they give up and walk away. One of the hoods sees how upset Ricky is, takes the ball from the guy who took it, and throws it to Ricky.
  • Police Brutality: Officer Coffey is a black policeman who shows racism towards other blacks because he thinks they're all criminals. When he and his partner question Tre and Ricky, Coffey shoves a gun in Tre's face to see him scared for his life and explains that he signed up specifically to rough up those he hates. Notably, his (white) partner is visibly shaken by this.
  • Police Are Useless: When the police arrive for the robbery, they dismiss it as trivial because there was nothing taken and the robber escaped unharmed. Officer Coffey wishes Furious had killed the man.
  • Precision F-Strike: Furious drops one near the end when reasoning with Tre:
    Furious: Give me the motherfucking gun, Tre!
  • Prisons Are Gymnasiums: Doughboy says there's not much else to do in jail apart from eat and work out.
  • Product Placement: Monster is seen in one scene playing a game of Duck Hunt.
  • Revenge Before Reason: Defied. Tre initially sneaks out of home to join Doughboy and his gang to get revenge on Ferris' gang for killing Ricky, but along the way, Tre asks to be let out of the car and returns home, as he realizes his father was right to keep him away from an endless cycle of violence.
  • Revolvers Are Just Better: Furious Styles' .357 Magnum.
  • Sacrificial Lion: Ricky's death two thirds of the way into the movie is the point where it gets worse for everyone.
  • Say My Name: "RICKYYYYY!!!"
  • Shared Family Quirks: Both Tre and Furious answer the phone with a "Who dis?"
  • Shout-Out: The part where they go looking for the dead body is a reference to Stand by Me. Even quoting the film ("You want to see a dead body?"). The endings are even similar, with Doughboy and Chris both fading away as we learn about their deaths in their respective movies.
  • Silence is Golden: The sequence surrounding Ricky's murder is noticeably quiet to emphasize its dramatic weight, completely void of sound at parts.
  • Single-Target Sexuality: Both Brandi and Tre only show attraction to each other throughout the movie.
  • Single Woman Seeks Good Man:
    • Brandi is attracted to the nice, smart Tre who isn't in any gang violence.
    • Shanice is attracted to Ricky, a Lovable Jock and Nice Guy.
  • Society Is to Blame: The only one of the three boys to overcome the pressures of street life is Tre, due to the presence of his father counterbalancing the negative influence of life in Compton.
  • Take That!: The thief who tries to steal Dooky's necklace is wearing an Eazy-E shirt; Doughboy beats the would-be snatcher down. Quite possibly a reference to the fact Ice Cube and Eazy-E were on rather bad terms at the time of filming.
  • Teen Pregnancy:
    • Furious and Reva were only 17 when they had Tre.
    • Ricky becomes one after the Time Skip into him in high school. He has had a baby son with his girlfriend Shanice, but their needs are provided for by Brenda.
  • Their First Time: Tre and Brandy have sex for the first time after the former was harassed by Officer Coffey.
  • Those Two Guys: Monster and Dooky have shades of this.
  • Too Dumb to Live: As they run away after narrowly avoiding a drive-by shooting, Ricky stops to take a leak and then after unwisely suggesting they split up, instead of keeping his wits about him, he casually strolls along doing another lottery scratchcard. He soon gets spotted and killed by the drive-by shooters.
  • Tough Love: Furious adores Tre and has no problem telling his son that he loves him, but he's extremely strict and does everything he can to raise Tre to have a good work ethic.
  • Tragic Keepsake: Implied. The football Ricky is seen with as a child was given to him by his father, who is implied to be dead.
  • The Unfavorite: Doughboy is this to his mother, preferring Ricky. It's implied that it stems from the two having different fathers and that their mother's relationship with Doughboy's father was more dysfunctional. Right after Ricky is killed, his mother immediately assumes Doughboy is responsible.
  • Unwitting Instigator of Doom: While crossing an alley, Ricky suggests that he and Tre split up in a attempt to avoid Ferris and the Bloods, but then Ricky stops to scratch his lotto ticket just when Ferris' car blocks his path to exit the alley. He tries to run, but one of the Bloods fatally shoots him in the back.
  • Used to Be a Sweet Kid: Inverted. Tre used to be a Mouthy Kid with anger issues, but being raised by his stern father has shaped him into a more mild-mannered, responsible individual.
  • Vengeance Feels Empty: Doughboy ultimately doesn't know how to feel about killing Ricky's murderers. He gets no satisfaction from the act and resigns himself to treating it as part of life in the hood.
  • The Vietnam Vet: Furious mentions partaking in the Vietnam War at one point during his time in the Army because he wanted to be somebody his son could look up to. However, he dissuades Tre from joining as he claims that black men have no place in the Army.
    "I knew you was gonna be a boy. I wanted to be somebody you could look up to. So I guess that's why I went to Vietnam. Don't ever go in the Army, Tre. Black man ain't got no place in the Army."
  • Villains Out Shopping: After Ricky is murdered, Doughboy and his friends set out to find the killers, who are... eating and having casual conversation at a fast-food joint. Cue drive-by.
  • Warrior Poet: Doughboy gives a moving and eloquent speech on violence in the hood, and white America's apathy towards during the film's denouement.
  • Was It Really Worth It?: The look on Doughboy's face as he stands over the bodies of his brother's assassins seems to ask this. What difference did it make? Ricky is still gone and it didn't make everything right again. The pain didn't go away, and it comes back to bite him when Doughboy is killed two weeks after he killed Ricky's killers.
  • We All Die Someday: Doughboy sums up life in the hood as this after killing Ricky's murderers.
    Doughboy: Shit just goes on and on. Next thing you know, somebody might try to smoke me. Don't matter though. We all gotta go sometime, huh? Seems like they punched the wrong clock on Rick, though.
  • Wham Shot: When teenage Chris pushes back from the table and is shown sitting on a wheelchair.
  • White Shirt of Death: Ricky's notably wearing a white shirt when he's killed. The gunshots already make for distinct red splotches when they're fresh, but by the time his body's lugged back to his house, his shirt's almost completely soaked in blood.
  • Xtreme Kool Letterz: Look at the title.
  • You Are Too Late: By the time Doughboy and his gang arrive to Tre and Ricky's aid, Ricky is already shot dead.

"...You still got one brother left, man."