Dead Presidents [1995]

Genre: Crime, Drama, Thriller
Twin brother codirectors Albert and Alan Hughes planned their first film, the 1991 ghetto crime drama Menace II Society as a response to John Singleton's Boyz N the Hood, which they considered wimpy and moralistic. They set their sights on The Deer Hunter in this ambitious follow-up, and they just about pull it off. Larenz Tate (from Why Do Fools Fall in Love) plays Anthony Curtis, an open-hearted African American teenager who gets shipped out to Vietnam with several of his pals, witnesses unspeakable horrors, and then struggles to readjust to civilian life. The evolving textures of life in a declining inner-city neighborhood over a period of a decade are seamlessly evoked, and there's enough nuanced character development and personal interaction for a seven-hour miniseries. Still in their early 20s, the Hughes brothers are already poised and masterful moviemakers; they cover an enormous amount of historical and emotional ground, and every twist and turn is crystal clear. They betray their inexperience only at the very end, in an elaborately staged heist sequence that, while stunningly executed, feels a bit desperate, as if they were reaching blindly for a big payoff. Chris Tucker (Rush Hour) has a startling supporting role as a kid who becomes junkie during the war, and never quite recovers. --David Chute

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