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Summer of Sam

movie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Summer of Sam

Starring: Adrien Brody, John Leguizamo
Director: Spike Lee
Rated: R
RunTime: 142 Minutes
Release Date: July 1999
Genres: Drama, Suspense

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Review by Susan Granger
3 stars out of 4

The perennial question facing film-makers has always been: Should movies try to influence their audience - using morality stories, fables, fantasies, etc. - or should movies simply, often boldly, reflect the society of their time? Spike Lee chooses the latter. There's no doubt that the anger and violence, stupidity and intolerance that he depicts are real. But do you really want to spend a sluggish two hours with these unpleasant, unsavory characters? Set in the sweltering summer of '77, when the Son of Sam psychopath, David Berkowitz, went on his bloody killing spree in the Bronx, the story revolves around two couples who are long-time friends. Mira Sorvino and John Leguizamo are into disco, while Jennifer Esposito and Adrien Brody are punk rockers. Each has his/her own sexually explicit problems (mostly drug-connected) but, collectively, they're spooked as they're swept into the gruesome details of Berkowitz's indiscriminate slaughter. And Ben Gazzara scores as the local crime kingpin who is determined to protect his neighborhood. Problem is: there's no bond between the moronic characters and the audience. Is it the one-dimensional roles in the episodic screenplay by Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli, and Spike Lee? Perhaps. But, as a director, Lee seems out of his element with these idiosyncratic Italian-Bronx characters and keeps us utterly detached. And, as an actor, Lee delivers a wretched performance as a TV newscaster overemphasizing each line. While this film is visually stylish and vigorous with pertinent historical imagery, it is, as Jimmy Breslin says, just one of eight million stories of the naked city - and quite a racist one at that. On the Granger Movie Gauge of 1 to 10, "Summer of Sam" is a bleak, brutal, repellent 3. Don't say you weren't warned.

Copyright 2000 Susan Granger

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