peteg's blog - noise - movies - 2015 08 21 DoTheRightThing

Do the Right Thing (1989)

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David S suggested this as something by Spike Lee worth seeing. Brooklyn, 1989, a boiling hot summer's day, so what are you going to do but open up a fire hydrant and set fire to the neighbourhood pizzeria? Lee himself puts in an agreeably ambiguous piece of acting, those eyes assessing, judging, playing the angles, presenting both the MLK and the Malcolm X view of things. Danny Aiello gets some help from John Turturro in representing at the Italian outpost, and flirts hamfistedly with the communalistic Joie Lee. She goes MIA when things get scorching. That's Samuel L. Jackson on the radio, making it with his voice only, and not too much MFing swearing. Lee struck some gold with the Korean shopkeepers, especially the wife, who somehow identify as black and are eventually deemed sufficiently black for their store to survive. Mostly this is a portrait of how the races mix, for the climax is a (relatively) uninspired take on the seemingly eternal killing of black men by police. I never realised that Michael Franti sounds so much like Chuck D. Time to add Public Enemy to the never-shortening list of things to check out.

Roger Ebert: four stars as a "great movie" in 2001. Vincent Canby at the time.