Aug 1, 2011

Do the Right Thing (1989): A

As Nashville is to Robert Altman and 2001: A Space Odyssey to Stanley Kubrick, so too is Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing as perfectly representative of a total filmmaking talent as any movie yet made, and one of the great American films. A sun-stroked Brooklyn neighborhood is the canvas on which director/writer/performer Lee paints, the coral reef through which he weaves us. The many joys of the film - the celebration of life, the sheer cinematic ecstasy of watching unfold something so assured and fully realized, Samuel L. Jackson's Mister Senior Love Daddy, and a peripatetic Greek chorus, among others - are equaled only by the fiery injustice it bears witness to in an apocalyptic third act. A pizza shop, a town drunk, a classic car, a racist son, a boom box, a wall of fame, and a trash can are like additional characters in this glorious pastiche of a society trying to come to terms with itself. Lee's didactic, sometimes problematic gadflyism (no film ever went so quickly south for me as the final sequences of his Malcolm X) is channeled through his characters to profound effect, echoing the conflict within every person whose ever experienced a moral struggle while heartbreakingly examining the ways our individual bad habits and shortsightedness perpetuate the larger failings of society. The movie wants to shake you up, and whether or not you warm up to it may depend on how necessary you find its sporadically rude tone to be. Arguably perfect from the first utterly organic beat to the last, chances are it will change you, and for the better.


  1. One of the greatest films, and has I now have worked in parts of Brooklyn very similar to the setting here I can attest to the feeling of heat that this film gives to the viewer. On a hot day in BedStuy you can feel the heat off the concrete and the sun radiating off the chipping paint. Lee's achievement here is letting me know how this would feel before I ever stepped foot in Brooklyn; his film made me think I had been to BedStuy before, and that time it was even hotter. Of course I had never set foot there, but Do the Right Thing made me not have to physically be there to understand that.

    That's the power of this film.

  2. Lee shows us both sides of the situation, and lets us decide for ourselves. The results are devastating. Truly a powerful film that still works no matter what day and age. Good Review! Check out my site when you can!