Original Title: The Wood
Country: United States
Director: Rick Famuyiwa
18.03.2020: This review was first published on 20.09.2018 and is being updated for a more complete review, together with the publishing of the YouTube Version.
Hello There! I’m dos Santos. Welcome to Ulven Reviews!
The Wood is the first feature-length movie by Rick Famuyiwa, inspired by events in his own life. Three old friends reminisce about their teenage years, while one of them is hesitant about his wedding.
Roland (played by Taye Diggs) vanishes on his wedding day, so his two best friends, Mike (played by Omar Epps) and Slim (played by Richard T. Jones), go out to find him and bring him back.
Tanya (played by Tamala Jones) tells the friends that Roland is at her house, drunk, and having second thoughts about getting married. Mike and Slim go get him to take him to the ceremony, but he’s still hesitant.
While the trio waits for Roland to sober up, they make some stops on the way to the wedding, always talking about their past, growing up in Inglewood, in the Los Angeles area.
Centered on the protagonist Mike, the story is told from his perspective. The flashbacks go back to 1986 when the young Mike (played by Sean Nelson) arrives in Inglewood. In his first day of school, he meets Slim (played by Duane Finley) and Roland (played by Trent Cameron), and from then on, the three began their long-lasting friendship.
First of all, let’s define Hood Film. According to Wikipedia:
“Hood film is a film genre […] which features aspects of urban African-American or Hispanic-American culture such as […] the problems of young people coming of age or struggling amid the relative poverty and violent gang activity within such neighborhoods.”
During my adolescence, I was very into Hood Films and the themes present in these movies. The Wood was a movie that came up on TV some random night, and the moment I heard Inglewood, I began paying attention.
I liked the movie since I first watched it, I already watched it more than three times, and I can still enjoy it. It’s a movie that was part of my adolescence and has a special place in my heart.
The Wood is different than most of the traditional Hood Movies, comparing only with 2015’s Dope, also directed by Rick Famuyiwa. The focus, usually in gang violence and drugs, goes to teenagers, and their struggle growing up in the hood.
The gang element is there, it’s just not a fundamental part of the plot. One of the first things Slim and Roland ask Mike is if he plays basketball or gangbangs. The gangbang we’re talking about is about street gang violence, not anything related to the pornographic world.
The film shows that teenagers in Inglewood have many similarities with teenagers in other parts of the country. They have the same classes, dances, and the discovery of sexuality. What differentiates The Wood from other teen movies is the context in which the characters are inserted.
The characters in The Wood are poor, black kids, in an area known for gang activity. While the ones in other teen movies are predominantly rich and white. Also, The Wood is way funnier.
This context doesn’t change things only in the matter of representativeness, but the fundamental dynamics and conflicts of the characters. For example, when Mike grabs Alicia’s ass (played by Malinda Williams), and her brother comes to her defense, it’s not any older boy, it’s a Piru, a gang member.
With violence and criminality around the corner, the movie had everything to be a harsh drama, but it’s a light and funny comedy. The humor is relatable, all of us went through adolescence, so we understand and feel the jokes.
The movie is really well-acted. Omar Epps, Taye Diggs, and Richard T. Jones are the big names, and they do the usual, but my favorite performances are in the flashbacks. Sean Nelson, Duane Finley, Trent Cameron, and Malinda Williams are excellent.
My favorite character in the movie is Alicia’s brother, the Piru I mentioned earlier, Stacey (played by De’aundre Bonds). He gave an exceptional performance, providing funny moments, others of tension, and even heartwarming.
Sean Nelson, as young Mike, also does a remarkable job as protagonist of the story, and he carries the film very well in this leading role. I haven’t watched any more of his works, I should check some out because he showed to be a talented actor in The Wood.
The cinematography is not among my highlights. It’s elementary, very competent, it didn’t awe me, but it had some dramatic camera work that I enjoyed because it enhanced the emotions in the scene.
The close-up shots in The Wood, are different than the ones in The Vatican Tapes, that I criticized in this regard. In The Wood, it’s an artifice to enhance the emotions, while in The Vatican Tapes it’s unjustified.
I don’t even remember when it was the last time I praised the score of a movie here. The Wood has a pleasant soundtrack, with Hip-Hop songs from the late 80s and early 90s, opening the film with Back in the Day by Ahmad.
The Wood is a good movie, with a competent acting, compelling story, and more importantly, it’s funny and easy to watch. For other people, it might not have the same importance it has for me, but definitely worth 105 minutes of your time. From me, The Wood gets 8 Moons, but with much love.
That’s it for now. Don’t forget that Gangbang has more than one meaning. Bye.