Summer of Sam

Bomb Rating: 

Spike Lee might become a decent filmmaker the day he realizes that treating his audience like a bunch of imbeciles doesn't get him anywhere -- the stupid ones don't get it anyway, and the smart ones feel patronized.

If I want a history lesson, I'll take a class or read a book. I don't need Spike Lee to pull the wool over my eyes by insinuating that his fictional account of the summer of 1977 is somehow true. It may be based on actual events, but it's far from true. Lee might as well hand us a lacquered turd and insist it's a bar of gold. The film opens and closes with journalist Jimmy Breslin narrating before a sign that reads "Dead End." At best, this is unnecessary exposition. At worst, it's Spike Lee pulling out his filmmaker weenie and flapping it around in my face.

The Breslin thing is intrusive as hell, but that's become the mark of Spike Lee films. Lee himself appears in the film as a reporter, which is another intrusion. Lee is enough of a celebrity that he should know that playing a role in his own film diminishes the entire thing. In this story about Italians in New York during the Son of Sam killings, the most important scene occurs when friends Vinny (John Leguizamo) and Ritchie (Adrien Brody) are sitting in a restaurant and the punked-out Ritchie is asked by the owner to leave.

That scene is provided just in case anyone in the audience too dumb to successfully operate a soda straw has missed the whole message about judging people on their appearance. It's not enough that Vinny and his group of friends have spent the entire movie thus far making prejudiced assumptions about everything around them -- Lee has to reach for the morality sledgehammer. The problem with being so righteous about prejudice is that when you turn the narrow focus of the lens around, the man behind the camera doesn't look so good either -- and there are plenty of things in this film that don't make Spike Lee look good.

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