"Menace II Society" certainly doesn't seem like the work of immature filmmakers. Though the 1993 film tells the story of teens living in Los Angeles, there is nothing juvenile about the searing portrait it paints of violence, fellowship and survival, nor of the cinéma vérité style in which it is told.
But according to Allen Hughes, who, along with his twin brother Albert, filmed "Menace" when he was just 20-years-old, the directorial duo hadn't made a mature film until "The Book of Eli," their upcoming post-apocalyptic Western starring Denzel Washington.
"We were blessed and cursed to have our first film green-lit at 17, and that sets you back in a personal way," Allen told MTV News. "I think the 'Book of Eli' is our first grown up film."
Maybe he feels that way because the Hughes brothers have grown up a lot since their last big screen effort. After a string of films culminating with the Johnny Depp-starring graphic novel adaptation, "From Hell," the Hughes have been absent from theaters for eight years.
"It's surprising when you hear the number, but it's not surprising when I knew what the life was in between," said Allen.
Albert has been living in Prague and Allen has been a single father in L.A., getting up everyday to take his kid to school. "There were no nannies or none of that bulls--t going on," Allen said.
The brothers have shot ads and done TV work, but settled into what Allen called an "incubation period" as they adjusted to new settings and demands and worked within the Hollywood system to bring "Eli" to the big screen. It opens on January 15. Denzel stars as the titular hero, hoofing it for 30 years through a lawless land while carrying what he believes will be ultimately save humanity from ultimate destruction.
By comparison, Allen's eight year wait between projects was nothing, not to mention well worth it. "It gets greater later," he explained. "There are certain things you can't buy, and one of them is experience. The wisdom that comes with age, if you're listening as well as engaging. In basketball terms, Michael Jordan never had a jump shot game until he got older and more mature. He was slam dunking. As filmmakers, the disposition is a lot more mature. The tendency isn't to make as many mistakes. I think we made less mistakes on a greater scale than we've ever worked on."