Viewed – 4 August 2008 DVD
Spike Lee’s powerful 1989 ghetto drama always seemed to me like a poor man’s Boyz N the Hood at the time when I first saw it – where’s all the Mo Fo’s and the Gats? But seriously, this is a very different and believable portrait of racial tension and ignorance that gradually builds up during one hot summers day in suburban Brooklyn. The film revolves around a Pizzeria known as Sal’s and is owned by Italian Danny Aiello and his two sons (with a stand out John Turturro as the bullying Pino) with Lee’s own Mookie as the Pizza delivery boy. After one of the local black guys spots that Sal only has Italian celebrities on his wall of fame, a boycott of the pizzeria is started, and although the film mostly focuses on the comings and goings of a bunch of very vivid characters, trouble soon erupts, leading to a startling climax.
This thought provoking film really pulled me in, and is an intelligent look at different ethnic cultures in modern America and the ignorance and bigotry that can be caused. From a personal viewpoint, I find it hard to sympathise with some of the black characters, who play the victim when they themselves are stirring it up. Although Sal’s boys and some other bystanders don’t exactly make things any easier. Overall this is fascinating, often funny and challenging cinema that really should be seen by the widest audience.
The DVD from the good ‘ol boys at Criterion is a deluxe two disc set, with a wealth of documentaries on the second disc (including a fascinating return to Brooklyn sequence by Spike Lee and producer Jon Kilik) and we also get a commentary track with Lee again and the crew. Picture and sound are first rate, and although the film looks a little grainy in the darker scenes, its vibrant colours are shown off brilliantly. Oh and Public Enemy’s Fight The Power will blow you away, despite the basic 2.0 surround soundtrack (to preserve the film’s original recording).
Verdict: 5 /5