A kind of black "The Deer Hunter," the Hughes Brothers' searingly fine sophomore effort
(after "Menace II Society) focuses on some pals from the Bronx before, during and after
their tour-of-duty in Vietnam. Larenz Tate, in a total turn-around from his mad-dog O-Dog
in "Menace," is the protagonist, Anthony, a nice-enough kid from a middle class family who
wants to join the Marines. Trouble is, it's 1969 and so he's shipped off to 'Nam. The
scenes overseas are the movie's cinematic centerpiece, but the bulk of the picture takes
place back home. The Hughes tackle an astonishing array of subjects: the plight of
returning vets; changing neighborhoods with the influx of drugs, joblessness and weapons;
domestic violence and single-parent families; black rage as it was in the wake of the
sixties' "Black Is Beautiful" consciousness; childhood loyalties altered by hard times;
and, most of all, the seemingly ineradicable plague of racism. The movie isn't perfect;
by trying to cover so much territory, it inevitably skims over certain themes, skimps on
certain characters. But it's brimming with vitality and passion and without resorting to
an easy Blame Whitey out, it confronts us with the ugly reality of a nation so caught up
in the macho-angst of losing a war abroad that it ignored a far more important war at home.
A war that we're still fighting and one, alas, in which there are no winners.