Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American South Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.
There's a homicidal maniac wandering around the neighbourhood. You don't want to do anything about it? Summer of Sam is directed by Spike Lee and Lee co-writes the screenplay with Victor Colicchio and Michael Imperioli. It stars John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Rispoli, Saverio Guerra, Brian Tarantina, Al Palagonia, Ken Garito, Bebe Neuwirth and Michael Badalucco. Music is by Terence Blanchard and cinematography by Ellen Duras. It was met with some indifference upon release, for many film fans went into it expecting another "Se7en" type serial killer thriller. What we get is Spike Lee doing a clinical character piece of how the residents in a South Bronx neighbourhood react to having a serial killer in their midst. It's 1977 and it's the time of the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City, mistrust and vile character traits start to come to the fore... Lets face it, Spike Lee is often about as subtle as a sledgehammer over the head, but when it comes to characterisations - particularly when it comes to New York - he's one of the best around. He positively revels in dropping a group of unsound characters into a pressure cooker atmosphere and let them play out their respective human fallibilities. Who else could run a concurrent strand of a serial killer with a serial adulterer and produce such edgy and sly rewards?. The musical backdrop to the plotting gives us the move from disco into the punk explosion, with the juxtaposition between good friends - Leguizamo's disco dancing philanderer and Brody's (excellent) punk rocker turning gay tricks to pay for his musical aspirations - proving to be more pivotal than "Son of Sam" (Badalucco off the chain) himself. All while the "hood" lowlifes gather themselves as an army to seek out the serial killer themselves, which unfortunately means anyone remotely not in their circle of friends is a suspect!. It's no Lee masterpiece, for it's a touch too long and could have been trimmed by 15 minutes of pointless sexual exposition, while it sometimes feels like Lee is stuck between blaxploitation verve and mainstream appeasing ticket selling. Yet it's a bold piece of film making, with some genuinely jaw dropping sequences within. Prepare for a film that's big on characters during the reign of a serial killer and you might just appreciate Summer of Sam much more. 8/10