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Overall Rating

Awesome: 23.88%
Worth A Look30.6%
Average: 16.42%
Pretty Bad: 17.16%
Total Crap: 11.94%

11 reviews, 68 user ratings

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Summer of Sam
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by Chef ADogg

"A movie more psychotic than the Son of Sam."
4 stars

Spike Lee works his magic with another nerve jangling thrill ride, but he's fetishizing something much more dangerous than the evils of college basketball or interracial relationships. Here, Lee concentrates all his cinematic powers on Son of Sam, the notorious serial killer who shook up New York in 1977. Everything is set up perfectly for another great joint, and Mister Spike's moviemaking mojo is in full effect--though the rush is occasionally marred by the fatal reality lying behind the melodrama.

"Summer of Sam" starts off slow and loping--Lee films the opening scenes with a liquid swagger. We meet our "hero," Vinnie, an unfaithful hairdresser with a beautiful wife and a Madonna/Whore complex. Vinnie is played by John Leguizamo, who totes around in his bag of neurosis a "doggystyle" fetish--he likes to peddle his love in the rear cavities of his playmates. His wife, Dionna, played by Mira Sorvino, can't understand why she is unable to please him in the bedroom--the truth is that Vinnie can't stand to get kinky with his own wife. He feels that he should only perform anal sex on women that he barely knows. It's his own personal code of honor, and like most honor codes, it doesn't really adhere to a strict logical blueprint. Opposite Leguizamo is the magnificent Adrien Brody, all skin, bones, and cocky magnetism. He's a Bronx tough guy with a newfound punk attitude (not to mention a phony Cockney accent} who's singled out by the local lynch mob as the Son of Sam killer. Brody doesn't help matters much with his burgeoning career in exotic dancing, pornographic films, and bathroom prostitution--these are all things that arouse suspicion from the somewhat narrow minded two-bit thugs.

As befits a Spike Lee film, the tension builds as the temperature rises, hitting a high midway through the film when New York is shrouded in a twenty five hour black out. This is the breaking of the dam that represses all the anger within the characters. The complex relationships that have been moving in and out of Lee's lens now explode all across the screen in a dazzling display of emotional fireworks.

The joy of "Summer of Sam" is indescribable. Never before has Lee's aesthetic sense been more consistently in tune. He knows what we want, and he delivers--and by god if the pulpiness of the individual scenes isn't drowned out by the exhilirating sweep of the narrative. Lee's film, operating on a queasy state of hyper-reality, is able to hold our attentious to due a strong undercurrent of lurid soapiness that runs all through "Summer Of Sam"--you're viewing something that's none of your business, and yet it's impossible to look away.

Contributing to the surreal texture is the juxtaposition of audio and visual--this is a loud, sweaty tale of ordinary folks that is performed to the jumpy rhythm of a disco epic. Vinnie moves from the disco to the streets without ever losing his glamour-king attitude--he walks through his neighborhood as if it were the world's biggest party, and he was the star attraction. The music pumps even as his world unravels in a haze of cocaine, orgies, and Quaaludes.

"Summer of Sam" is not a great film. Points are docked for the annoying intro and outro by Jimmy Breslin (who casually refers to SOS as a sick fuck}, and for the frequent interludes with David Berkowitz. He could have been the true string of the movie, his scenes holding everything in place--the quiet logic of a serial killer cutting through all the glittery bullshit that clogs the story. Instead he's portrayed as a freaky psycho, and he only adds to the thick layer of confusion.

In the end, "Summer of Sam" succeeds because Lee is not really sure of his subject--the ride is much more exciting when even the conductor doesn't know what's going to happen next. The film has quite a few weak spots, but, in the end, it got me so high that I barely noticed.

Spike's latest picture doesn't exude the same wistful serenity of "He Got Game," or the clearness of vision that so rocked our world in "Do The Right Thing," but it moves with unsurpassed passion and energy.

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originally posted: 07/15/99 14:46:53
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User Comments

5/04/19 GLR Spite Wee's usual truth-mangling Black racist propaganda "film" 1 stars
9/16/17 morris campbell interesting but undone by sleaze & overlength 3 stars
7/22/11 Dave Smith On a ten star scale, a 1/4 star away from a MASTERPIECE. It's about the NEIGHBORHOOD. 5 stars
3/03/11 chris c Somewhat of a spiritual counterpart to Do the right thing despite a lot of vulgarity & sex 4 stars
6/02/09 MP Bartley Sweats and flails to little thick-headed effect. Some good moments survive. 3 stars
7/02/08 jointz on second thought, I can see what Scott's saying, the movie has no straight narrative 4 stars
5/19/08 jointz Weinberg obviously has a stick up his ass! How could you NOT love the Talking Dog? 5 stars
1/28/07 action movie fan funny, tough and super realistic-the best film of 1999 5 stars
6/11/06 Jeff Anderson Some of Lee's strongest, best work to date. Sorvino's sexy & great performance STANDS OUT!! 5 stars
8/20/05 ES Save your money, this has about five minutes of time dedicated to the killer 1 stars
5/21/05 Zelemont Are you SERIOUS? Long, pointless, straying waste of talented actors! BORING! DONT BOTHER!! 1 stars
12/22/04 Landshark visceral characters in that NYC '77 scene, Lee gets it 5 stars
8/14/04 Oliver Fantastic. 5 stars
1/22/04 Sugarfoot Spike Lee sucks, plain and simple. And so do most of his movies. (Girl 6 for one.) 1 stars
1/17/04 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) Definitely one of my top 3 favorite films of all time! It's fucking perfect!!!!! 5 stars
12/19/03 ROY L. CAIN,JR. The first Spike Lee joint to not feature too many black characters. Still a groovy pic. 5 stars
10/19/03 Agent Sands (previously Mr. Hat) I don't know how Spike does it. Direction is brilliant. Surely among the best of his best. 5 stars
5/12/03 Jack Bourbon Eh. Don't care for it. 2 stars
3/19/03 Jack Sommersby Maddeningly uninvolving and unfocused. This talented cast deserves much better. 2 stars
10/24/02 Charles Tatum Spike can be as racist as the evil white man 1 stars
10/09/02 Kitfo anybody who calls spike lee self indulgent or pretentious should stick to hollywood drivel 5 stars
9/26/02 snowconehead Too much Leguizamo, not enough Sorvino 4 stars
7/18/02 Cris Abisale He Got Game is much better.Too much sex in this movie.Spike=Disappointment 2 stars
3/05/02 Alan Smithee Typical overrated Spike Lee bullshit. 1 stars
1/01/02 Andrew Carden Pretty Realistic Movie...I Didn't Like John Though. 4 stars
9/09/01 Butterbean A very underrated movie. It captured the effect of city-wide panic brilliantly 4 stars
7/29/01 Artist Freak Great performances, really pegs the 70s. Wide array of sex for a non-porn movie. 4 stars
6/29/01 See me Fly!!!! fuck this movie it's fucking hard to fucking understand, they say fuck every fucking second 2 stars
4/19/01 Socutejd This was an insult to serial killers 1 stars
4/17/01 Spetters Spike´s best film yet!! Everything and everyone is great in this explosive film. 5 stars
3/12/01 RACHEL this movie was amazing, very well made, great images 5 stars
2/23/01 italian mobster i liked the music but i cant stand the fact that a fuckin nigger directed an italian film 2 stars
1/18/01 romayne charles John Lequizamos brilliant looks and acting made this film . 4 stars
12/06/00 AtlantaBill What the fuck? There is a talking dog in this movie! Spike Lee, you suck faggots. 1 stars
6/28/00 Bender Entertaining, if overlong. Plus the most use of the F word in a movie I've ever seen. 4 stars
6/24/00 Aaron White Best talking animal scene in film history. Sex scenes restored my will to live. 4 stars
3/10/00 Kyle Broflovski Blergh. I punctuated every scene with a hella yawn. BORING!!! 1 stars
3/09/00 Richard Wright Every noun is preceded by an F word and everyone is either a moron or a slut.Dig it,man.NOT 1 stars
1/21/00 node I found this to be very thought provoking. 4 stars
1/02/00 KK Should be renamed Summer of Idiots. Lee can't direct/act/write his way out of a paper bag. 1 stars
1/01/00 Tyson Stewart It's hot and bloody. Such a great story! 4 stars
11/29/99 Mic Not as good as Do The Right Thing, good nevertheless. "Sam" should've had less screen time. 4 stars
11/25/99 Frank Curigliano Riveting, disturbing, funny and painful. The best film of the year thus far. 5 stars
11/18/99 Matthew Smith Lee's best film since Do The Right Thing, Ambitious, bold and confronting. 5 stars
11/01/99 JonnyAngel this slut of a movie sucks and swallows 1 stars
9/11/99 Jason Kinsey a whirlwind of colorful images, thumps, & sounds-great 4 stars
8/10/99 Alisa Spike Lee shows no class in this film. he didn't even research this movie for truth. 1 stars
8/04/99 Tanya I'm being generous with the rating. Spike Lee making white people look ignorant again. 2 stars
8/03/99 Lola Jones Well put together. However, there were too many sex scenes.:) 4 stars
8/02/99 david napier best film of the summer, and love that leguizamo and lee was funny as the reporter 4 stars
8/01/99 Obi Wan This movie didn't do shit to me or for me...except waste my time! 2 stars
7/22/99 PhilmPhreak Annoying movie about annoying people - and what the fuck was Spike Lee's character? 2 stars
7/16/99 Jo Jo, The Idiot Circus Boy Horror? Movie? Where is the movie? 1 stars
7/12/99 ken heine the punk scene was cool. 2 stars
7/12/99 Ah Dooey Shoddy movie I ever saw. The movie had no substance and not any dialog. 3 stars
7/11/99 evil buffy intrigued by the cinematography; look and sound made up for plot weaknesses. good acting 4 stars
7/10/99 M. Donnelly Quite well done. I really was able to get pissed off at some of the characters. 5 stars
7/09/99 P.S.O.K It wasn't as good as thought it was gonna be 3 stars
7/09/99 bridgette adrien brody-good; everyone else-ok; editing-HORRIBLE. can we say porn? 2 stars
7/07/99 Brian M honest characterizations, bizarro editing and fab music 4 stars
7/07/99 Daddy Rich Spike Lee; what more can you say? 5 stars
7/07/99 Mr showbiz Spike Lee's latest is a triumph of style... and little else. 2 stars
7/06/99 sydney awesome! 5 stars
7/06/99 Malbert Worst piece of crap I've ever seen 1 stars
7/05/99 jvt Overlong, pretentious crap with stereotypical "characters" 1 stars
7/05/99 johntidal a demented bad ass flick with great act that intensifies the terrrror 5 stars
7/04/99 ALiaS WOW!!! Spike Lee has proven that he is diverse enough to do a dark movie!!!! Kudos brother! 5 stars
6/16/99 David A subtle masterpiece; ambitious tale of ordinary lives affected by social paranoia. Great!! 5 stars
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Directed by
  Spike Lee

Written by
  Spike Lee

  John Leguizamo
  Adrien Brody
  Anthony LaPaglia
  Jennifer Esposito
  John Savage
  Bebe Neuwirth

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