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Among the various members, there is: Tre Styles (recent Oscar-winner Cuba Gooding Jr.), a teen attempting to break out of the poor, crime-ridden neighborhood of his youth; Doughboy (Ice Cube), Gooding's friend, who takes on the job of leading the hood's more hostile youth into various forms of violence; and Ricky (Morris Chestnut), Ice Cube's brother, whose chance to get out of the hood may be through an athletic scholarship at USC. The boys are guided somewhat by Gooding's father (Laurence Fishburne), who attempts to teach them morals and show them advantages other than shooting and killing different boys in the hood.
Singleton directs this (as he does with most of his films) with a purpose, relentlessly showing the actions and consequences that go with drive-by killings, drug use and various other forms of life in South Central. It benefits from an excellent script and directing by Singleton, who captures the look, feel and language of South Central realistically and with a certain compassion. It also features a stunning cast of now very well-known actors, including three powerhouse performances by Gooding, Cube and Fishburne. These three play characters that are a far cry from the stereotypical views of black men in past films.
Gooding, though 23 at the time, captures the growing pains and various mood changes of a 17 year old quite intelligently. Cube captures the more hostile feelings teens have for adults and society, also adding to the character some street smarts and a code of honor among brothers, friends and family. Fishburne offers a pleasing change-of-pace performance as a black father, who is definitely NOT out of his child's life and wants to see his son grow up with a bright future, as many parents (whether they're black, white, Hispanic, Asian, etc.) want to see for their children. A picture like this, that shows black actors in intelligent, well thought-out roles (and without so much preachiness for this kind of story) comes only once in a blue moon. Especially in the Liberal-Conservative 90's. I'm proud to say this will be (once the millennium comes to an end) on my top twenty list as one of the greatest stories ever told in the 20th century.