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.
by Mark Deming synopsis