Watts, LA. Caine (Tyrin Turner) learns to hustle. Car-jacking, peddling dope, drive-bys (“I thought killin’ those fools would make me feel good. It really didn’t make me feel anything”). Yet even Caine has a choice, the (clichéd) love of a young Jada Pinkett offering an escape route: last exit to Atlanta.
Inevitably compared to John Singleton’s Boyz N The Hood – it’s less didactic, more robust – this impressive debut from the then 21-year-old Hughes brothers is actually a B-movie gangster pic. Foul-mouthed and drenched in blood, maybe, but a B-movie gangster pic all the same. Arguably the best of the early ’90s cycle of ghetto flicks, it benefits from lean direction, prickly performances and startling sound effects (a traffic light changes colour to the report of a gun). Larenz Tate’s charismatic sociopath, O-Dog, is especially memorable: “America’s nightmare – young, black, didn’t give a fuck.”