Tre and Ricky are Black teenagers growing up in the violent neighborhoods of South-Central Los Angeles. Tre lives with his non-nonsense father, Furious, and this strong male presence in his life is integral in keeping him on the right path. He is a good student on track to go to college. Ricky has no such close male authority figure in his life guiding him and is further hampered by the influence of his brother Doughboy, who is a full participant in the violent gang lifestyle and is constantly in and out prison. But Ricky is a trying to do right, and experiences a positive countering influence in being around Tre and Furious. Though Ricky is not as solid academically as Tre, he is a gifted football player and will be able to attend USC on a football scholarship if he can just get his SAT scores high enough to qualify for admission.
But can these two young men really remain separate from the gang violence that surrounds them every day?