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“Hey, you ain’t gotta be creepin’,” O-Dog (Larenz Tate) tells the Asian shopkeeper at the convenience store. “Man, always think we gonna steal something,” he says to his friend Caine (Tyrin Turner). A minute later a remark from the cashier angers O-Dog so much he shoots the cashier and the shopkeeper.
After that opening scene, we get narration from Caine telling us about his childhood. His father (Samuel L. Jackson) was a pusher with a short fuse. During a poker game, he shoots another player. Little Caine looms in the background of the frame, wearing his pajamas. Menace II Society (1993) is filled with senseless violence. When the violence is not petty and impulsive, it’s just a link in an endless chain of retaliations. Violence is so mundane an aspect of these people’s lives, most don’t notice a difference between O-Dog and his obvious psychopathy and Caine who may well have been an upright citizen had he grown up in a different environment than the projects of LA.
Caine graduates high school, barely. His grandfather calls this the proudest he’s ever been. His grandfather raised him since his father and mother died in a drug deal gone wrong and by an overdose respectively. One of Caine’s friends, Ronnie (Jada Pinkett), is a single mother and one of the few people he knows trying to lead an honest life. Later she gets a job in Atlanta and offers Caine the chance to come with her and leave behind the gang life. It’s hard to say if his reluctance to join her stems from him not knowing any other path than the one he’s on, or if he can’t resist the allure of drugs, casual sex, and money.