Do The Right Thing
USA, 1989, 120 Minute Running Time
Genre/Subjects: African-American, Drama, Political, Social Issues
Spike Lee's racial and political filmmaking bent is given the full treatment with this simmering exposé of racial tensions in a New York City neighborhood one scorching summer day. The film, written by Lee (and nominated for an Oscar), follows a group of racially diverse inhabitants of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood as they spend their day trying to avoid the oppressive heat. These include African-American pizza deliveryman Mookie (Lee), the racially sensitive Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), and the silent, boom-box-blasting Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn). Also thrown into the mix are Sal (an Oscar-nominated Danny Aiello), the Italian-American proprietor of Sal's Pizzeria, as well as his two sons, Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson), who hold completely opposing attitudes when it comes to race. After Buggin' Out tries to organize a boycott of Sal's because of the lack of racial diversity on his shop's Wall of Fame, the tensions explode in an act of senseless violence. Lee's film is an electric work of political entertainment that confronts sensitive racial issues head-on. He deftly blends humor and drama, as well as using specific music to further amplify his theme (Public Enemy's song "Fight the Power" actually becomes the film's main catalyst for action). Boldly closing the film with opposing quotes from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King on the nature of race relations, Lee leaves it up to the viewer to decide if Mookie's actions were the correct ones. Aiello and Esposito are standouts in an all-star cast that includes Lee's sister Joie, "discovery" Rosie Perez, and the married team of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Always one to spark controversy, the filmmaker is at the peak of his craft with this summer drama.
DIRECTOR: Spike Lee
US Distributor: Universal Pictures