Summer of Sam - Movie Reviews - Rotten Tomatoes

Summer of Sam Reviews

Page 1 of 48
Super Reviewer
July 21, 2011
I am usually one to dislike Spike Lee's work due to his knack for starting fights and complaining about more talented directors. Even I can admit however that Lee can at times make a good effort. Although Summer of Sam is not a great piece of cinema, this is much better film than most in Spike Lee's filmography. The cast really elevate the material, and for what it is, this is an engaging thriller from start to finish that will certainly appeal to viewers looking for a well acted movie with effective thrills. The film could have been better as well, and though Lee tries to craft something quite different from his other work, he at times feels uncertain on how to really make this a standout feature. Spike Lee has made a good film here, and though I hate the guy, I quite enjoyed this dramatic thriller. If only he would change his outlook and shut his mouth, he would be more respected. With this film, he crafts something compelling and worth seeing. This is quite different and even if it's not perfect, it's one of his better films. The film is mixed in terms of what it tries to be, but it's always engaging due to its varied cast and well thought out characters. I will be honest, I wanted to avoid this film, and I thought it wouldn't be good due to the fact that Lee's films tend to be preachy and packed with racial tension, but Summer of Sam is different and refreshing. The cast and plot are compelling and elevate Spike Lee sometimes lacking direction. I did enjoy the film, and along with Malcolm X is Spike Lee's second best directorial effort. Even Lee's haters, like me can admit that this is an entertaining film and it works due to well written characters and standout performances. You can only imagine how much better the film would have been better if someone else would have helmed the project. This is a flawed film, but better than what I initial thought.
Super Reviewer
½ January 18, 2012
Know what? I bet that Spike Lee would make a really brilliant zombie movie. He really excels at crafting stories about groups of characters caught in circumstances that bring out the worst in everyone. This movie reminds me a lot of Do The Right Thing, but it's made twelve years after and set ten years before. I was surprised (though perhaps I shouldn't have been) that this movie spent so little time with David Berkowitz himself and so much more with all the characters made paranoid and hostile to each other in the wake of his insane and random murders. The Son of Sam murders have fostered an atmosphere of suspicion that leads former friends and people who've grown up together to mistrust each other, form vicious little in-groups and turn on other people to make themselves feel more secure. Not unlike in The Walking Dead. These characters seem really three-dimensional and real to me, and everyone's motivations, while sometimes despicable, are at the very least understandable. I really like the way Ruby and Ritchie get into the burgeoning CBGB's punk scene and come together, and I really liked Vinny and Dionna as the profoundly unhappily married couple trying to repair their strained relationship. Are they even compatible? I love this movie. It's so human and so big, and Spike Lee tells the story with a real sense of flair and zeitgeist.
Super Reviewer
December 23, 2011
On a scene by scene basis this film is alright, but it is a mess when taken as a whole. It's like the filmmakers came in with twenty ideas and a clumsy script that does not fully develop any of them. This leaves confusion as to what message Spike Lee was trying to convey. There are moments of brilliance in this movie, accompanied by some good acting. The most noteworthy performance is Adrien Brody. Yet for every moment of brilliance, there are tedious elements that prevent the film from being great. The relationship sub-plot with John Leguizamo's character feels like a very bad soap-opera that is only related to the Son of Sam killings by sheer coincidence. This sub-plot is a time-killer that doesn't add to the overall story. Plus there are some characters that are too cartoonish to be taken as real people, which counteracts the gritty realism Spike Lee is trying to achieve. If Spike Lee had taken the time to refine the script and made it less crowded this movie could have been really great. As it is, it is a mixed bag.
Super Reviewer
November 17, 2009
Probably one of Spike Lee's best movies. The story is so engaging and powerful. It touches on so many subjects of the time regarding race, creed, gender, sexuality and psycho killers without becoming bloated and boring. John Leguizamo and Adrien Brody gave amazing performances as usual. Instead of fabricating a lot about the Son of Sam killer, Spike Lee centered the story around the neighborhood in which the murders took place which worked quite well. You really get to see how a community reacts under fear.
Super Reviewer
June 10, 2006
Ritchie: All right. What do you want me to tell you? Get a fuckin' divorce, then.
Vinny: Divorce is fuckin' evil, Ritchie. You got some fuckin' really bad advice.
Ritchie: Evil spelled backwards is live.
Vinny: You're a corny fuck, you know that?

A Spike Lee joint, set during the incredibly hot summer of 1977 in New York City. This was the summer that the serial killer known as the Son of Sam was targeting brunette women around the city. This movie uses that fact as a backdrop and is more focused on the drama involving a few main characters and some themes involving how people look at others due to the murders.

John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino are a married couple. Leguizamo constantly cheats on his wife, working as a hair dresser in the Bronx. His best friend, played by Adrien Brody, is a newly turned punk, with outfits causing concern from the residents of his Italian-American neighborhood.

Among the many other Lee cast familiars, we do also get many scenes involving "Sam" and the so-called instructions he received from a dog to kill people.

[Dog is barking and the Son of Sam is sobbing and trembling]
Son of Sam: How did you get in here? Leave me alone! What do you want?
Harvey the Black Dog: I want you to go out and kill. Kill.
Son of Sam: No -
Harvey the Black Dog: Kill!
[the Son of Sam is still trembling]
Harvey the Black Dog: KILL!
Son of Sam: [murmurs something inaudible] I will kill. I will... I'll do anything you say. I'll do anything you say! Yes, master! I will kill! I WILL KILL!

Being a Spike Lee film, we get all sorts of social commentary centered around the times, as well as a variety of different filming techniques emphasizing the various elements of the film.

The movie is also an extremely hard R, with non-stop cursing, sexuality, and detailed violence to portray the murders. Not necessarily unusual for a Lee film or a film with this kind of topic, but notable.

While lengthy, at 140 minutes, to me it is a very watchable movie. Its well made, features a large cast, and makes good use out of its setting.

Anthony: Yeah, they suck really good. Just like you, Ruby.
Ritchie: Come on. Relax.
Ruby: Yeah, I learned from your mother, dick.
Anthony: You gonna let your sister talk that way to me?
Brian: She's my half-sister.
Ritchie: Come on. Get lost.
Super Reviewer
March 9, 2008
Crap that fails miserably. The only thing worth a damn in this movie is Reggie Jackson.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2008
Spike Lee's ambitious ensemble drama is a fictionalised re-creation of New York City during the blistering summer of 1977, when the serial murderer dubbed "Son of Sam" erupted into full-blown homicidal fury. The resulting cauldron of suspicion and paranoia is tailor-made for Lee, who demonstrated a similar fascination with friendship under heat-induced stress in Do the Right Thing. The cynical director always expects people to revert to jungle savagery, and he structures the relationships in this film accordingly. The key story involves the deteriorating marriage between John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino, and the latter's good-hearted spirit helps balance the film's often nasty tone; in a film littered with deplorable and repellent characters, Sorvino positively sparkles.
Super Reviewer
January 26, 2008
Rated R. Good film for a night in, perhaps with the missus. Not one to watch with the mates.
Super Reviewer
August 27, 2006
An electrifying and mind-blowing urban thriller on acid. An exhilerating rush of a movie. an edge of your seat trip. engaging and entertainment. A great soundtrack and explosive performances.
Super Reviewer
October 13, 2007
Spike Lee's take on intolerance and paranoia in the crazy hellish summer of 1977 is a bit hit and miss in some parts. But manages to be more focused than other films he has made.

John Leguizamo can be very good in the right roles, Brody is solid as usual, and Mira Sorvino should seriously get more roles, specially the ones that require her to appear in lingerie. The rest of the supporting cast was also spot on.
Super Reviewer
March 21, 2007
Way underated, and one of Spike's best.
Super Reviewer
½ March 10, 2007
Good viewpoint of the story, enjoyed it, but was a rather long film
Super Reviewer
September 1, 2006
Aiyah! Spike, I repeat: What in the summer of samhill is up? (Hint: Next time, no Leguizamo : )
Super Reviewer
½ June 6, 2008
I liked the idea of the movie, making it more about the climate that the Son of Sam killer produced than the actual killer, The performances are pretty good, I liked Adrian Brody's character and I though the mistrust of his punk rock look was something that would actually occur. The problem is that the stories that Spike Lee tells are kind of predictable, that and his melodramatic and stylized depiction of the Son of Sam killer seems out of place. I think it would have made more sense to cut the killer as a character out completely instead of just the small scenes that he has that don't fit in the rest of the movie.
Super Reviewer
½ June 20, 2007
Hmm.. This is a sort of off putting movie and one that takes an odd approach in what is not really the story of a serial killer, like you'd expect. Roger Ebert says it's about scapegoating, the need for the town to have someone to blame for the city-wide panic on this self-proclaimed "son of Sam". That blames goes on the well-cast, socially unaccepted Adrien Brody. John Leguizamo is also well-suited for his role as Adrien's best friend-dealing with his own marital problems, trying to stop cheeting on his wife, and in disbelief about what his friend's been up to. There are some nice directorial touches here and there, but there's also pleanty of Spike Lee-isms that I don't pretend to understand. We see the killer very early in the film, so we know the town is just paranoid with their incorrect accusations. The scene where Son of Sam is instructed by a dog to kill is supposed to be demonic and disturbing, but it comes off kinda laughable.
Critique Threatt
Super Reviewer
April 13, 2010
Spike Lee "Summer Of Sam" goes all the way back to the year of NYC 1977. A lone killer who goes by the name of Son Of Sam goes out at night, looks for innocent victims and murders them. That is just the back drop of the story. The real hert of the story is about four characters who live in the Italian neighbourhoods in the Bronx. Vinny (John Leguizamo), the slick, disco jock who is married to the lovely Dionna (Mira Sorvino), but is constantly unfaithful. Ritchie (Adrien Brody) is Vinny's closest friend, but his punk hairdo and standoffish attitude have made him a threat in the old neighborhood. Vinny is also dating Ruby (Jennifer Esposito), the promiscious girl who decides to go punk.

Spike Lee is a master at using popular disco tracks and 1970's replica to recreate the New York atmosphere. He even uses play by play commentary, a scene where The Son Of Sam goes out at night to look for victim to destroy, playing in the background is the baseball commentator who mentions Reggie Jackson scored a home run. SOS is more of an outsider's POV, a lot of cliche's is evident, even the cinematography is rather distracting. The character Son Of Sam David Berkowitz is another flaw and would have worked better if the Son of Sam had been left as a presence rather than made into an actual character. Overall it's a good picture.
Super Reviewer
½ September 27, 2010
This was very well done and it kept me interested all the way through. Very good!
Super Reviewer
July 9, 2009
Great drama set in 70's New York among the famous "Son of Sam" murders. This is a fascinating film because the killer is pretty much in the background as we see the effects the fear of whats happening has on a close knit group of family and friends in an Italian-American area of New York. Some great scenes and dialogue with good performances from John Leguizamo, Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody among others.
Super Reviewer
½ June 12, 2008
solid story recounting the hot summer of 1977 and the random killings that gripped the big apple....suspenseful and interesting, this is gripping storytelling and keeps the viewer involved!
Super Reviewer
October 20, 2007
It's the summer of '77 and New York is under attack from a heatwave, punk rock and a serial killer, all of which conspire to bring out the worst in people. This film is brilliant, choosing to deal with the effect of the above factors on everyday life instead of the serial killer - he's no more than a subplot but an important one. Mira Sorvino and Adrien Brody really stand out in what I'm going to say is Spike Lee's best film. Recommended.
Page 1 of 48