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Movie Reviews

Summer Of Sam  

Vinny (John Leguizamo)
Ritchie (Adrien Brody)
Dionna (Mira Sorvino)
Ruby (Jennifer Esposito)
Luigi (Ben Gazzara)
Gloria (Bebe Neuwirth)
Detective Petrocelli (Anthony LaPaglia)
Directed by Spike Lee Written by Spike Lee, Victor Colicchio, and Michael Imperioli
Rated R for strong graphic violence, sexuality, pervasive strong language, drug use, and nudity.
Running Time: 136 minutes Distributed by Touchstone


Summer of Sam is a riveting and scary film. The film is set in New York City in 1977, where and when innocent people were murdered by David Berkowitz, who called himself the "Son of Sam", and was dubbed the ". 44-caliber killer" by the media and NYPD. The story focuses in on a group of people living in a neighborhood where all the murders happen. The changes in each character's life are shown under the feeling of a murder living and walking around in your own neighborhood. Vinny (Leguizamo) is a hairdresser, and an unfaithful husband to his wife Dionna (Sorvino). Vinny believes that his wife is so incredible that there is no right way to make love to her, so he gets his pleasure other ways. Ritchie (Brody) is a mysterious punk who dresses weird and is a part-time gay dancer and musician. His love interest is a woman whom the locals call a whore, Ruby (Esposito). All of these characters subdivide through the film to the murders that are occurring in their neighborhood.

"Son of Sam", is a real life murderer that killed people in New York City in 1977. He was arrested and found insane. Berkowitz blamed his neighbor's dog and the devil for telling him to kill. Summer of Sam is a very frightening story that ties in with real events in addition to "Son of Sam". Such as the disco and dance era, the 1977 World Champion New York Yankees, and the blackout of New York City.

The direction is the strength of the movie. Spike Lee delivers a powerfully fierce piece of filmmaking. Lee uses distinct symbolism and real life New York style atmosphere. The atmosphere is totally accurate to the film. The actors are mostly sweating, in 70's clothes, have bushy hair, and the neighborhood buildings are pulled right out of New York. The most chilling scenes are each one that reveals Berkowitz practically becoming more and more violent in his apartment before he murders someone. Spike Lee deserves ample attention as one Hollywood's best filmmakers.

The script works well in the development of the mood of Summer of Sam. The characters are unique and the script flows well to a powerful climax. I do know, however, that Lee and his producers had to a lot of editing and mixing to avoid an NC-17 rating. It was a contract decision because Lee signed with Touchstone to deliver an R-rated movie. However, the board at Touchstone disagreed with the first screen test of Summer of Sam, and Lee had to go back to the editing room.

As far as the acting goes, Leguizamo and Sorvino are very strong, but the breakthrough performance is by Brody as Ritchie. The character really gives the actor a lot of options to work with, and Brody takes advantage. Brody, who had a lot of his character and lines edited out of A Thin Red Line last year, proves he has talent. I expect him to become a versatile young actor. I am so glad that Leonardo Dicaprio declined to take the role of Ritchie.

Summer of Sam shows one's life in bad times of the world and of one's self. This film is centered and unforgettable.

Report Card Grade: B+

Beastman's Movie Reviews
Copyright, 1999 Joseph C. Tucker

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