Writer/director John Singleton's emotive investment in his debut feature is so emphatic you wonder how he ever wound up making 2 Fast 2 Furious. It's quite a comedown. Still, his 1991 drama remains such a powerhouse hybrid of toughened-up teen movie, muscular melodrama, Western and urban realism that it leaves no doubt as to why he made so big an initial splash.
Set in South Central LA, Hood follows an African-American boy, Tre Styles (Cuba Gooding Jr), after his mother sends him to live with his father, Furious (a superb Larry Fishburne), out of fear for his future in a tough, crack-ravaged neighbourhood. Furious does the right thing by his boy, but after police harassment and acts of obscene violence, Tre finds the straight and narrow that bit too narrow...
These rites-of-passage foundations may be basic - hell, you can even see hints of Stand By Me here, alongside more vital influences like Mean Streets - but Singleton gives Hood momentum and focus, as well as a vivid take on place, character and the tensions between them.
The film rocket-powered the careers of Fishburne, Angela Bassett, Cuba Gooding Jr and Ice Cube, and you can see why: they're as committed as a cast gets. In fact, the chemistry clicks so surely that even the odd preachy lapse feels potent. Having made history already, Hood stands up: let's hope Singleton finds his form again one day.
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