Summer of Sam (Spike Lee, 1999)
[originally posted 19Jun2000]
Spike Lee, phone home. Where is the man who was able to mix militant political views with fantastic drama to give us School Daze and Do the Right Thing, two of the best films ever made? I don’t know where he went, but the shadow left in his wake who’s handed us the last bunch of godawful films with Lee’s name on them ain’t the same guy. Hopefully, Summer of Sam is the nadir, and he can get back to being himself. For one thing, in the early days, Lee’s acting was always one of the highlights of his films, and in Summer of Sam, it’s almost as if he was trying his best to act badly. (If so, he succeeded in fine form.) And forget that there might have been any other explanation for the killings (Lee obviously did). Add in a plot about the ways that peoples’ opinions change about one another and how fickle “loyalty” can be and you have all the makings of a disaster. The worst part is, this is stuff that Lee handled more than capably in his better films, and one is left wondering whether to blame the director or the scriptwriters for the mess this film is. I’m content to place the blame at half and half and hope Lee pulls himself out of the slump he’s been in. * ½
Bonus video! In case you didn’t get the subtitle ref.