Summer of Sam

Spike Lee's latest joint comes, oddly enough, from Disney subsidiary Touchstone. With the amount of language and drug use in it, that's kind of surprising. Summer of Sam is only peripherally about Son of Sam serial killer David Berkowitz. Instead, it focuses on how the killer affected the lives of some New Yorkers during the killing rampage of 1977. The Yankees were in the World Series, disco was in, and the heat was high.

There is a large ensemble cast in this movie, including John Leguizamao and Mira Sorvino (married couple Vinny and Dionna), Adrien Brody (The Thin Red Line) as transformed punker Ritchie, and Jennifer Esposito (Spin City) as Ruby, the neighborhood ho. The are tons of other characters, most of them neighbors of Vinny and Ritchie, who live in the largely italian section of the Bronx.

There are many many things going on here, mostly because of the large number of principle characters. Vinny and Dionnna's marriage is changing. Vinny is quite the womanizer, and it is beginning to catch up with him. His friends are more and more paranoid about the Son of Sam, and they form a vigilante group to try and catch him. On the top of their list is Ritchie is trying to adjust to life as a punk rocker in a very italian part of town, and Ruby is hooking up with Ritchie. Oh, and Vinny and Ritchie are childhood friends. Meanwhile, the mob and the cops are looking for the killer.

There is too much going on in this movie. As a result, instead of delving deeply into the lives of one or two people, you get to see a little of many things, to the point where you don't really care about anyone. Ritchie is probably one of the more interesting characters, and you lose track of him for a large portion of the movie when Lee decides to focus on Vinny and Dionna's marriage. The actors do a reasonable job, but in the case of Esposito and Sorvino, they could have done much better if they had more screen time or more to work with. Anthony LaPaglia, Patti Lupone, and Bebe Neuwirth are also part of the cast.

Because there are so many stories, the movie is quite long. A long stretch of the middle of the movie is just filler, leading slowly up to the ending which you can kind of predict. Take out one or two of the minor stories and it would have been a lot shorter. Or, just remove a lot of the random cussing, and you could have cut a good 20 minutes off of the film. The best thing, however, is Lee's depiction of serial killer Berkowitz and his world, dark, and full of disturbing imagery.

Mongoose Rates it: Okay
2 hours, 22 minutes, Rated R for language, sexuality, and drug use.

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