Allen Hughes Movies
Twin brothers Albert
and Allen Hughes
sold their first screenplay by the time they turned 19. They co-directed a studio-backed feature film, presented it at Cannes, and founded their own production and record company by age 21. Yet, more than simply wunderkinds, they follow in the tradition of their idols -- Sergio Leone
, Martin Scorsese
, and Brian De Palma
-- by creating stylized genre flicks that are characterized by both startling violence and incisive social commentary.
The fraternal twins were born on April 1, 1972, in Detroit, MI, to an African-American father and an Armenian mother. Albert
is nine minutes older than Allen
. Their parents divorced when they were two, and they were raised by their mother, Aida Hughes. In 1981, she moved the family west to Pomona, CA, a suburb that is about an hour's drive from Hollywood. She worked at an In-N-Out Burger while taking care of the twins and putting herself through school. Three years later, she opened her own business, a vocational rehabilitation center for workers hurt on the job, and went on to become president of Pomona's chapter of the National Organization for Women.
When the boys turned 12, their mother lent them her company's video camera as a way to keep them out of trouble. Albert
instantly took to the camera, bringing it straight to their bedroom where they turned their closet into a mock spaceship. Using a boom box to generate sound effects, they staged their first movie, a violent crash landing. For the next couple years, the budding filmmakers spent all their free time making shorts. Editing at home on two VCRs, they re-created scenes from their favorite films, such as Enter the Dragon
(1973) and Scarface
(1983). They also made a documentary about the drug dealer who hustled crack cocaine outside their schoolyard.
During their freshman year of high school, Allen
enrolled in a television production course. After filming the short "How to Be a Burglar" for a class assignment, the boys started showing their work on the local cable station. They dropped out of school a year later. Albert eventually took filmmaking classes at Los Angeles City College, and then one of their public-access films, The Drive By, snagged them an agent. The pair went on to direct high-profile music videos for Tupac Shakur
, and Digital Underground
While still teenagers, the twins conceived the idea for their first feature film, Menace II Society
(1993), the story of a young African-American man's struggle to leave the Southern California projects. After writing an outline, they commissioned screenwriter Tyger Williams
to draft the script, which was then picked up by New Line Cinema. Credited as the Hughes Brothers, they made their directing debut when Menace II Society
premiered at the Cannes Film Festival. Starring relative unknowns Larenz Tate
and Tyrin Turner
, the film included standout supporting work from Jada Pinkett Smith
, Samuel L. Jackson
, and Charles Dutton. It grossed nearly ten times its three-million-dollar budget and earned its directors an Independent Spirit Award nomination for Best First Feature. Besides landing the Hughes Brothers a two-picture deal with Disney's Caravan Productions, Menace II Society
's unprecedented success helped them establish their own production and record company, Underworld Entertainment. Made of two divisions, Underworld Productions and Underworld Records, the company produces the twins' films and soundtrack tie-ins, as well as represents rap and hip-hop recording artists.
The Hughes Brothers developed their sophomore directing effort, Dead Presidents
(1995), from a short story they found in Bloods, a compilation of works about African-American Vietnam veterans. After commissioning Michael Henry Brown
to write the screenplay, they drafted Menace II Society
's Larenz Tate
to star in the project, along with Bokeem Woodbine
, Keith David
, and Chris Tucker
. However, Disney wrongly marketed Dead Presidents
, which chronicled the difficulties black veterans encountered when they returned to the States, as a heist picture. It opened to mixed reviews and mediocre box-office returns, but its soundtrack (which the Hughes Brothers executive produced) reached number one on the R&B chart and number 14 on the Billboard 200.
Disappointed by audiences' reaction to Dead Presidents
, the Hughes Brothers took almost four years to choose their next project. They had initially set out to adapt Iceberg Slim
's autobiography, Pimp: The Story of My Life, for the big screen, but decided instead to direct a feature-length documentary about hustlers, titled American Pimp
(1999). Featuring subjects from across the United States, the film was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
After producing Doug Pray
's documentary on DJs, Scratch
(2001), the Hughes Brothers returned to fiction filmmaking with From Hell
(2001). Based on Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell
's mammoth underground graphic novel of the same name, the film chronicled the hunt for the world's first documented serial killer, Jack the Ripper. Starring Johnny Depp
, Heather Graham
, and Ian Holm
, the film's all-white cast and European setting were a distinct change for the directors. Yet its stylized look, heavy violence, and thoughtful narrative fit right into their growing oeuvre.
While working on their film career, the Hughes Brothers still occasionally direct music videos, especially those for songs featured on their soundtracks. They also garnered four Clio Awards for their public service announcements on gun control, "Stray Bullets" and "These Walls Have No Prejudice." ~ Aubry Anne D'Arminio, Rovi
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In this modern noir from director Allen Hughes, his first fiction feature-length film in over a decade, Mark Wahlberg stars as Billy Taggart, a New York City private eye struggling to get his deadbeat clients to pay when he gets a call from Mayor Hostetler (Russell Crowe). His honor remembers Billy from seven years ago when, as a cop, the young man shot a rapist who had been exonerated on a technicality. Back then, the Mayor told Billy he was a hero, but Billy was still forced off the job due to the public outcry and some incriminating evidence that never saw the light of day. Now the mayor needs someone he can trust to find out if his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) is having an affair - a fact that could cause him considerable trouble seeing as Election Day is just a week away. As Billy digs for the truth, he uncovers layers of political corruption, and discovers he himself is nothing more than a pawn in a much bigger game. The film co-stars Jeffrey Wright as a police commissioner, Kyle Chandler as a political consultant, and Barry Pepper as the mayor's political rival. ~ Perry Seibert, Rovi
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In a post-apocalyptic America where the once-picturesque countryside has become a desolate and violent wasteland, one man (Denzel Washington) fights to protect that sacred tome that could hold the key to the survival of the human race in this futuristic thriller from filmmaking duo Albert and Allen Hughes (From Hell and Dead Presidents). Gary Oldman, Mila Kunis, and Ray Stevenson co-star in the Warner Bros. production. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
- Denzel Washington, Gary Oldman, (more)
One Last Dance's Max Makowski helms this adaptation of the popular 1970s television series concerning a Shaolin monk who fights injustice in the American West. Screenwriter Cory Goodman adapts a screenplay penned by original Kung Fu series scribe Howard Friedlander. ~ Jason Buchanan, All Movie Guide
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Some of the world's most-respected directors align forces to pay tribute to the city of the New York in this unconventional omnibus sister film to 2006's Paris, Je T'Aime. Broken into short segments, New York, I Love You is comprised of ten films, most choosing to take a down-to-earth approach to the stories of the countless lives lived in the city on a given day. The segments are as follows, chronologically:
Segment 1 -- Directed by Jiang Wen; written by Hu Hong and Meng Yao; starring Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, and Rachel Bilson.
Segment 2 -- Directed by Mira Nair; written by Suketu Mehta; starring Natalie Portman and Irfan Khan.
Segment 3 -- Written and directed by Shunji Iwai; adaptation by Israel Horovitz. Starring Orlando Bloom and Christina Ricci.
Segment 4 -- Directed by Yvan Attal; written by Olivier Lécot and Yvan Attal; starring Robin Wright Penn, Ethan Hawke, Maggie Q, and Chris Cooper.
Segment 5 -- Directed by Brett Ratner; written by Jeff Nathanson; starring Anton Yelchin, James Caan, Olivia Thirlby, and Blake Lively
Segment 6 -- Directed by Allen Hughes; written by Xan Cassavetes and Stephen Winter; starring Drea de Matteo and Bradley Cooper.
Segment 7 -- Directed by Shekhar Kapur; written by Anthony Minghella; starring Julie Christie, John Hurt, and Shia LaBeouf.
Segment 8 -- Written and directed by Natalie Portman; starring Taylor Geare, Carlos Acosta, and Jacinda Barrett.
Segment 9 -- Written and directed by Fatih Akin; starring Burt Young, Ugur Yucel, and Shu Qi.
Segment 10 -- Written and directed by Joshua Marston; starring Eli Wallach and Cloris Leachman.
Transitions in between segments -- Directed by Randall Balsmeyer; written by Israel Horovitz, James Strouse, and Hall Powell; starring Emilie Ohana, Eva Amurri, and Justin Bartha. ~ Michael Hastings, Rovi
- Hayden Christensen, Andy Garcia, (more)
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Inspired by the true-life tale of a dedicated elementary-school teacher who inspired his inner-city students by teaching them the game of chess, Allen Hughes' uplifting made for television feature marks a noted departure from such previous efforts as From Hell and Menace II Society. Richard Mason (Ted Danson) was middle-aged and unemployed when he decided to take up teaching inner-city students, and though most of the kids in his classroom couldn't have cared less about their education in the beginning, something curious happened as time went on. Realizing that he wasn't getting very far with his students through conventional means, Richard realized that he would have to innovate in order to encourage critical thinking among the impressionable youngsters. By breaking the curriculum and instead teaching his pupils the finer points of chess, the man who had once lost all motivation in life suddenly realizes just what a difference one teacher can make if they simply become more attuned to the needs of their students. ~ Jason Buchanan, Rovi
- Ted Danson, Malcolm David Kelley, (more)
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While rappers may be the most visible musical exponents of hip-hop culture, it's the DJs (or "turntablists," as some prefer to be called) who generate the funky beats and cut-and-paste musical structures that have made hip-hop the dominant musical phenomena of the past 20 years. Scratch is a documentary that examines the role of the DJ in hip-hop music, from the pioneering work of old school hip-hop artists like Afrika Bambaata and Jazzy Jay to contemporary masters like noted trip-hop musician DJ Shadow and award-winning turntablist group Invisibl Skratch Piklz. The film also explores how DJs turned the turntable into a musical instrument, the increasingly elaborate techniques involved in "scratching" (manipulating vinyl discs, turntables, and tone arms to produce different sonic effects), and how different turntablists dig up the rare and elusive LPs from which they draw the samples that they craft into new songs. Scratch was directed by Doug Pray, who previously examined a different musical phenomenon -- the Seattle rock scene that spawned the grunge explosion -- in his film Hype!. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
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The true-life horror story of Jack the Ripper gets a new spin in this screen adaptation of the acclaimed graphic novel by Alan Moore and Eddie Campbell. In 1888, a ruthless and cold-blooded killer begins hunting prostitutes in East London, and while the murderer's work is savage, the mutilation of his victims suggests the fiend has an extensive medical background. Amidst a background of political unrest and barely contained scandal among the royal family, the murderer's grisly exploits shock and frighten all of England, and one of Scotland Yard's top inspectors, Fred Abberline (Johnny Depp), is put on the case, along with his partner, Peter Godley (Robbie Coltrane). Abberline, depending on one's viewpoint, is either blessed or cursed with second sight, and while he blurs his ability to see future events with opium and other drugs, he still has an uncanny ability to ferret out dangerous criminals, which is put to the test as he and Godley search for the Ripper. As Abberline and Godley investigate the neighborhood where the crimes occur, they become acquainted with the prostitutes and street people who were friends and compatriots of the victims, and Abberline finds himself falling in love with Mary Kelly (Heather Graham), a beautiful Irish streetwalker. As Abberline tries to identify the killer before Mary Kelly can become the next victim, he and Godley have to contend with Sir Charles Warren (Ian Richardson), their superior who is keen to pin the murders on a culprit who isn't British, and Sir William Gull (Ian Holm), a respected physician who has his own ideas about the murders and the benefits of psychosurgery. From Hell marked a change of pace for Albert Hughes and Allen Hughes, the sibling directorial team best known for their gritty depictions of America's urban underground in such films as Menace II Society and Dead Presidents. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
- Johnny Depp, Heather Graham, (more)
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Albert and Allen Hughes, the writing and directing team of Menace II Society and Dead Presidents, turn their documentary eye to the world of street pimps in this 1999 Sundance Film Festival Documentary Competition entry. The black urban pimps interviewed here open up to reveal their world and their secrets to the camera in a film that is not about sex, but about power. We meet pimps named Filmore Slim, C-Note, K-Red, Gorgeous Dre, and Rosebudd as they discuss their business, including percentages, lifestyles, stealing "ho's," and the Player's Ball. These men exude charm and charisma, and boast rock-star status in their communities, with expensive clothes, cars, and bankrolls. The film works as an allegory to the film and music industries, where people are lured with glamour and money, only to be used as commodity and tossed out once they have passed their prime. The film also traces the history of the street pimp from the '20s to the present, with particular emphasis on the '70s pimp, whose lifestyle was exposed in the blaxploitation films of the '70s. ~ Chris Gore, Rovi
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Albert Hughes and his brother Allen Hughes followed their striking debut Menace II Society with this ambitious look at the social and political lives of the African-American community in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Anthony Curtis (Larenz Tate) is a young man coming of age in the Bronx in 1968. Working two part-time jobs -- one as a milkman's helper and another for local numbers runner Kirby (Keith David) -- Anthony is torn between doing the right thing and trying to get by in a environment that offers few opportunities to young black men. After graduating from high school, Anthony decides to join the Marines, news that is not well-received by his parents, who want him to go to college, or his girlfriend Juanita (Rose Jackson), with whom Anthony recently lost his virginity. After serving a horrific tour of duty in Viet Nam with his friends Skip (Chris Tucker) and Jose (Freddy Rodriguez), Anthony finds himself back home in 1973, where Juanita has been raising the child he fathered before he shipped out, drugs and crime have crippled his community, and honest job prospects are practically nil. Eventually, Anthony falls in with Kirby, Skip, and Jose, who have teamed with Juanita's sister Delilah (N'Bushe Wright), a Black Power activist, and Cleon (Bokeem Woodbine), in a scheme to rob an armored truck taking worn greenbacks ("dead presidents") to a mint to be destroyed. Martin Sheen and Seymour Cassel appear unbilled in small roles. ~ Mark Deming, Rovi
- Larenz Tate, Keith David, (more)
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This debut offering from twin brothers Albert and Allen Hughes was one of the most critically-acclaimed urban crime films to appear in the wake of John Singleton's influential Boyz N the Hood. Set in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, the film is narrated by 18-year-old Caine (Tyrin Turner), a drug dealer and car thief who lives with his religious grandparents. After graduating from high school, Caine shows no ambition beyond hanging out with his friends, so his grandparents kick him out. Among his other troubles are his best friend O-Dog (Larenz Tate), a vicious thug hunted by the police, and the friends and family of the girl Caine got pregnant and then turned his back on. Perhaps the lone positive influence in his sphere is Ronnie (Jada Pinkett), a single parent struggling to raise her young son without the boy falling prey to the 'hood mentality. When their friendship becomes a love affair, Ronnie tries desperately to convince Caine to move with her to Atlanta; soon afterward, he is shot and nearly dies. After recovering, he accepts Ronnie's offer, but tragedy strikes as they pack their van in preparation to leave. ~ Jason Ankeny, Rovi
- Tyrin Turner, Jada Pinkett Smith, (more)