Do the Right Thing Reviews
On a hot summer day in a Brooklyn neighbourhood, the residents struggle to keep their cool in the increasingly sweltering temperature. Sal (Danny Aiello) owns the local Italian pizzeria where he happens to upset black activist Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) who, in turn, demands the black community boycott his place. Most people are unwilling to do so but it still adds to the discontentment amongst the community as racial attitudes and prejudices begin to surface.
Taking the title from Malcolm X's quote "You've got to do the right thing" and being inspired by an actual incident in Howard Beach, New York, Spike Lee crafts an important and unflinching portrayal of racial tension in a literal urban melting pot. He sets his intentions from the outset with the ferociously pumping music of Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" and infuses his story with an eclectic mix of races, characters and personalities, while still managing to lend the film an important lightness of touch. It has a distinct and observant humour that magnifies the absurdity in people's preconceptions and judgments but this absurdity is soon, skilfully, shifted to frustration and rage which descends his characters into a chaotic madness.
Filled with an abundance of excellent performances from Danny Aiello's hard working Sal to John Turturro as his racist son Pino and a small but highly entertaining role for Samuel L. Jackson as the radio dj, 'Mister SeĂ±or Love Daddy' - who seemingly oversees everything in the neighbourhood. Lee's direction is vibrant and colourful and makes full use of an excellent hip-hop score before other filmmakers even realised it was cool to do so. His script is also as sharp as they come with endlessly quotable dialogue and he even has the bravery to have a selection of characters - from different ethnic backgrounds - rhyme off very personal and racial slurs in a montage that breaks the fourth wall. With this scene alone, it's easy to see why some were offended by the film upon it's release. It's a passionate reflection of racism and race relations and one that raises as many questions as it answers. However, that's the whole point; Lee's agenda is not to incite trouble but to rouse debate and he does a sterling job in doing so, while still being empathetic towards each and every one of his characters - regardless of their ethnicity. That's the real key in preventing this film from being contradictory in it's arguments as many critics have claimed it to be. Few films have ever dealt with racism as powerfully or as thought provoking as Lee does here. He has a strong voice on the subject and this outstanding piece of work is one that's still as relevant today as it ever was.
Beginning with a simmer before ending in a boiling intensity, this a powerful and thought provoking, sociopolitical commentary. Lee would go on to deliver the similarly themed "Jungle Fever" and "Malcolm X" after this, which cemented his reputation as one the most important black filmmaker's of our (or any) generation.
The heat it's a metaphor to the limit level of patience that the characters go. From that point, actions of immaturity, ignorance, racism, hate and violence take this block on Brooklyn, NY to a no way exit end of intolerance.
With a terrific work by Mr. Lee and his cast formed by Danny Aiello, Lee himself, John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Richard Edson, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Samuel L. Jackson and much more. This artistic masterpiece have a lot of colors, funny moments, reflexive and surprising scenes and even a little indirect romance between Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) and Mother Sister (Ruby Dee).
It's a big shame that, Do The Right Thing wasn't nominated to the Academy Awards to Best Picture and even worst: Who won was Driving Miss Daisy by Bruce Beresford, that also talk about racism; but not so realistic and powerful like Lee's work. The "Right Thing" to do was Spike had won the Oscar of Best Picture. A forgettable work, that is the great American film of 1989. Fresh.
"Fight The Power!", "Fight The Power"! ,"Fight The Power!"
"We Gotta Fight The Powers That Be!"
Years before "Crash" or "Avenue Q" reminded us that everyone's a little bit racist,Spike Lee's 1989 surprise hit made all of us that we are racist within ourselves regardless of creed,color or national origin. Released in the summer of that year,alongside "Batman" becoming the highest grossing film of that year,and the third installment of the latest Indiana Jones trilogy,"Do The Right Thing" made us aware of our own prejudices and how we look at different things from a perspective. During its initial release,critics were worried that there would be riots,and there weren't,and Lee criticized the critics for suggesting that black audiences weren't capable of self control.
Which is ironic,as the film is all about losing control over the course of a long hot summer day,the mood shifting from congenial to dangerous as we come to know the residents of a Brooklyn neighborhood and their prejudices(both black and white). It's hard to pass judgment on what happens(which includes the infamous riot scenes that bring forth the climax of the film's 129 minute running time),but we do learn valuable lessons on how a restaurant's "Wall Of Fame"(where the wall includes pictures of Italians ranging from Frank Sinatra to Al Pacino and Robert De Niro where the character of Bugging Out asks the Pizzeria owner Sal as to why aren't there any blacks on the wall?" And Sal replies:"Once you get your own business going,then you can put whatever you want on your own wall.
This is my store,and you don't come in here and tell me how to fucking run it.")reflects its neighborhood's demographics,how not to respond to an overly loud boombox and the dangers of curbside trash collection,not to mention dealing with the overly trigger happy cops and lowlifes that surround the neighborhood. The large cast of actors make up for this brilliant study of race relations and the like which includes not only its producer-director-star Spike Lee,but has Danny Aiello(Sal);John Turturro (Pino),Rosie Perez(Tina),Ossie Davis(Da Mayor),Ruby Dee(Mother Sister),Ginacarlo Esposito(Buggin Out),Samuel L .Jackson(Radio DJ Senor Love Daddy),Bill Nunn(Radio Raheem),and Richard Edson(Vito),along with Martin Lawrence,Tisha Campbell,and Joie Lee(Spike's sister). "Do The Right Thing" is one of those rare films which manages to provoke those disparte
passionate responses while being an entertainment masterpiece that is one of Spike Lee's best works.
My second take is that Mookie throws the trash can because he realizes that he will always be black. The most offensive thing Sal could say is, "There will always be a place for you here." Sal will never understand Mookie or what he did. In this vein, Mookie's act is "right" and "ethical," however the two somewhat opposing quotes by MLK and Malcolm X at the end cloud the message. Is it "right" to act peaceably at all times or to use violence sometimes in self-defense? Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out do not act peaceably in their attempts to get pictures of African-Americans up on the walls of Sal's Pizzeria, and Sal does not act peaceably in his attempts to eject them from his restaurant. If MLK's doctrine of civil disobedience is out, then is Malcolm X's the only other way to go? Self defense is also kind of a sticky issue. Technically, no one attacks Mookie prior to him throwing the trash can, and the party he fights against were not directly involved in the cold-blooded attack of Radio Raheem.
So is there no "right" thing to do, or does everyone's "right" thing differ? I like that conclusion, but I'm not sure the movie's purpose is to contradict itself.
On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone's hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
One hot day in Brooklyn turns the racial tension that has been building up in the small neighborhood to a full boil after an incident involving one of the residents, and it culminates in a highly fist-wrenching climax. As you can tell by the afterword of the film, this is a movie that seeks to reconcile the teachings of two of the Civil Rights movement's most prominent voices--Dr. Martin Luther King and Malcom X, the former having taught standing up for your rights via civil disobedience and nonviolence, while Malcom X urged that your rights are something you have to declare yourself and actively defend in that 'By Any Means Necessary' activist manner.
This was, for me, one of the best movies of the decade and one of the best Spike Lee movies I have seen yet. The cast, too, is phenomenal, featuring Danny Aiello, Richard Edson and John Tuturo as an Italian family of father and sons who own the neighborhood pizza place. Spike Lee plays the sort of neutral force, the go-between. The cast also features Rosie Perez, Giancarlo Esposito (as a sort of instigator), Samuel L. Jackson, Robin Harris (Bebe's Kids), and most importantly, husband and wife civil rights activist team, Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee as feuding (and courting) neighbors who represent the elders perspective. It was a well-written nicely laid out story and resulted in an important political film.
I love this Movie and love the Soundtrack too.