Shortly after Bobby (Glenn Plummer) is welcomed back to the streets that initially led to his incarceration, he quickly makes his way back behind bars. In this brief respite from the law he bonds with a son he’s never met before and watches as the lives of those around him teeter on the brink of drug abuse. Imprisoned for murder we are re-introduced to Bobby ten years later. With this jump there’s a shift in focus as South Central follows his son Jimmie and his dabbling with crime.
Largely promoted as a redemptive piece, South Central preaches some well known verses. Tough guy Jimmie’s urged to learn from his father’s mistakes (with help from a nigh fateful shooting) whilst Bobby himself is straightened out with a little help from God. What South Central lacks in subtly it makes up for in its absorbing portrayal of the culture it explores. Whilst a lot of the slang lacks credibility, the cast do an admiral job with an occasionally patchy script.
Plummer’s ageing is dealt with well whilst both incarnations of Jimmie (both as a baby and as a ten year old) do admiral jobs as a gang member’s son. The supporting cast members are sometimes iffy (Bobby’s cooky friend) whilst others are stale stereotypes (Jimmie’s caring nurse) but, thankfully, many offer admirable performances.
South Central quickly plunges into exploring the reality experienced by black youths forced into the 90’s gang lifestyle and, although it portrays life change as relatively easy (Bobby reads a few books and suddenly becomes a new man), is a moving story of one man’s determination to save his son from a life of crime.