The Films of the Hughes Brothers

When movie buffs think of brothers who are great directors, they might think of the Coen Brothers (Joel and Ethan) who gave us Blood Simple, Miller's Crossing, Fargo, The Big Lebowski, No Country for Old Men, True Grit, and other modern classics, or they might even think of the Wachowski Brothers (Larry and Andy) who created Matrix, Bound, V for Vendetta, and Speed Racer.  But one sibling filmmaking team that I have great respect for is the Hughes Brothers (Allen and Albert).

Some words used to describe their movies are "gritty," "raw," "real," and "heartwrenching."  All of them pack an emotional wallop with believable, edgy characters.  Most importantly, all of their films are entertaining, pulling the viewer into the story and not letting go until the final credits.

They started out with Menace II Society about a street hustler trying to leave his dangerous, violent life behind, striving for something better.  The cast was excellent, with fabulous unknown actors (especially Tyrin Turner in the lead role of Caine) and big names before they became big names like Samuel L. Jackson and Jada Pinkett.  This is powerful filmmaking at its finest.

They followed up with another great movie, Dead Presidents, about a war veteran trying to restart his civilian life but drawn into a world of crime and violence.  The cast again was superb with Larenz Tate, Keith David, Chris Tucker, and a bunch of others.

Next came a documentary called American Pimp, an unflinching look at a shady but flamboyant underworld.  The real life people in the film are more outrageous than any fictional characters could be and the Hughes Brothers let the camera capture it all as only they can.  The result is compelling cinema from beginning to end.

After a short hiatus, during which they worked on individual projects, they reunited to direct a mainstream flick, From Hell, an adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel about Jack the Ripper.  It underperformed at the box office, but it was still an interesting film, worthy of a look.  Johnny Depp as always was terrific and so was his supporting cast: Heather Graham, Ian Holm, Robbie Coltrane, and the rest.

Finally, their last project, The Book of Eli, was much better than I expected.  In a post-apocalyptic world, a lone wanderer (played wonderfully by Denzel Washington) carries a sacred book and tries to keep it out of the hands of those who wish to misuse it (such as the wicked Carnegie played by Gary Oldman).  Great performances abound, especially by Mila Kunis, Jennifer Beals, and Tom Waits.

The Hughes Brothers are young and talented, and I can't wait to see what future films they have in store for us.

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