Sunday, July 26, 2015

Movie Review: "Summer of Sam" (1999)

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Movie"Summer of Sam"
Director: Spike Lee
Year: 1999
Rating: R
Running Time: 2 hours, 22 minutes

It's the summer of 1977 in New York City. The Son of Sam has been committing random murders, driving fear into the citizens of the city. Just because there is a killer on the loose, life can't just stop as many people deal with relationships and friendships while they go about their everyday lives. As the summer moves on and the Son of Sam is still on the loose, fear grows, accusations fly, and vigilante groups start taking the law into their own hands, putting more innocent people in danger. 

"Summer of Sam" is a fictional story built around the true events of the Son of Sam murders perpetrated by David Berkowitz. Though it most certainly plays a part in the film, instead of focusing directly on the killer himself and the murders he committed, the movie focuses on the lives of a few people in the community. The main focus is on a hairdresser named Vinny, played by John Leguizamo, and his wife Dionna, played by Mira Sorvino. Vinny is extremely unfaithful and cheats on his wife constantly. He also has some weird ideas about sex, especially when it comes to marriage. Another big part of the film involves Vinny's childhood friend Ritchie, played by Adrien Brody, who left town looking like an Italian guido and came back sporting the British punk rock look, complete with spiked hair and even a fake English accent for a brief time. He doesn't exactly fit in with the rest of Vinny's macho, heavily New York friends, and they certainly let him know it. As the heat rises and the Son of Sam continues his killing spree, tensions rise and paranoia spreads across the community. Joey T, played by Michael Rispoki, who is the makeshift leader of Vinny's little group of neighborhood pals, starts to rile up his crew into becoming vigilantes. They create a list of people from around town who they think could be the Son of Sam, usually fueled by their own personal beefs and prejudices with each person on the list. Topping that list is Ritchie, who because of his unconventional look and lifestyle, has been singled out for ridicule and beatings.

Spike Lee does a rather great job of showing how fear drives people to desperation, especially in smaller suburban communities of bigger cities. He shows how easy it is to manipulate the fearful and how simple it can be to convince people of lies when hysteria takes over. Adding the summer heat, infidelity, scandal, and intrigue to the mix only serves to add frustrations and anger, in addition to, you know, the serial killer on the loose. He executes this by intertwining his political message, one involving racial issues, gay rights issues, religious issues and relationship issues, with a series of excellent camera shots and interesting visual effects. Unfortunately, the movie does feel quite long. There's no reason for it to be 2 hours and 22 minutes, but like most of Spike Lee's movies, he overstuffs it with his own agenda. Sure, it gets messy from time to time, but most of it isn't terrible, and in fact, some if it is really great.

My Rating: 7/10
BigJ's Rating: 7/10
IMDB's Rating: 6.6/10
Rotten Tomatoes Rating: 50%
Do we recommend this movie: Sure, why not?
One year ago, we were watching: "Stand By Me"

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