Spike of Bensonhurst (1988)
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In other reviews of the film on this site, some (perhaps myopic?) individuals skewer SPIKE for its depiction of certain Italian characters - failing to notice that the foibles of women, Jews, gays, Puerto Ricans and W.A.S.P.s share equal billing. Morrissey & Bowne's targets were hypocrisy and bigotry. The score - a double bullseye.
Viva Spike Of Bensonhurst. While we're asking, may we have an official DVD release of Andy Warhol's BAD, another classic of the period?
3.5/5 Matt Bronson
He's always in and out of trouble, making life miserable for every one around him. Then one day, Spike makes a very stupid decision that'll nearly destroy his life. You might want to call this movie a lowlife Rocky. I highly recommend this film. I enjoyed it and you might too! Sasha Mitchell is Spike, Ernest Borgnine, Talisa Soto, Rick Aviles (R.I.P.) and Sylvia Miles also co-star.
Check it out. If you can find it!
Sasha Mitchell plays Spike Fumo; a native Bensonhurst Brooklynite whose grasp out seeds his reach. His father is serving a prison term for a crime he took the fall on to protect a local mob boss. His mother has taken up with another woman in her husbands absence and moved her lover into the house. Despite tall this, Spike has aspirations of becoming a boxing champion/mobster and thinks his Italian heritage is enough to carry him on the road to both. And such begins Spike of Bensonhurst. Paul Morrissy of the Andy Warhol fame directs this picture but try not to hold that against the movie. To his credit, during filming; Sasha Mitchell almost broke his back trying to carry the entire project on his shoulders with little to no avail. But, if you pause step back and look at the story line as a whole; the plot is amazing.
Spike is a club fighter who tries to impress local mob boss Baldo Cacetti by throwing fights. When he sees that is getting him nowhere fast, he quickly decides to get Baldo's daughter Angel pregnant and carve out a niche for himself. As a result, Spike gets him exiled from Bensonhurst. He is forced to move to Red Hook with Bandana (a fellow boxer) and his Puerto Rican family. Things then really start to spiral out of control when Spike falls for Bandana's sister, India and gets her pregnant as well. He finds himself between a rock and a hard place with a pregnant girl on each side pushing both in on him. If William Shakespeare were a filmmaker, this is the type of film he'd be making! It has everything: familial drama, sly comedy, prearranged marriages, unrequited love, crime, and a refreshingly flawed lead character who for once does not have all the answers and is free to make his own mistakes. (But trust me, The Bard would have done a far better job than some washed-up reject from Andy Warhol's factory.)
I believe that this film went wrong in 2 places. First off, there wasn't enough of an on-screen relationship developed between Spike and India. In fact, it seemed that Spike's furlough into Red Hook as a whole was more delegated to comic relief status when it could have been very revealing to Spike's character as a whole. I never felt I knew if Spike was involved with India because he just wanted a piece or if he actually found comfort in her arms. In one scene, Spike stared at India from bar of the club they were at while she was dancing with another man, and you knew that Spike felt a sense of guilt but you never know why.
Secondly, this film without a doubt possesses the worst soundtrack of all time. I'd rather listen to a tape an endless tape of Gilbert Godfried reading the phone book than to pop the soundtrack to this bad boy in my CD player. Trust me, mere language cannot convey how bad the music is. All in all, Spike of Bensonhurst is a film that deserves viewing. It's a film that is a dying breed. Part Anti-Rocky and part Shakespearean tragedy that is largely uneven and possess lots of the drawbacks of both. What it does possess, are enough genuine moments throughout to make you realize that his could have been so much more. Don't listen to any of the negative reviews on this for this film that other people have written. As a matter of fact, you can pretty much throw the positive ones out the window also and make up your own mind.
Sasha was charming and his mother was comical. Sorry guys, this was light comedy that poked fun at Italians/Puerto Ricans/Jews. Give it a rest, there are plenty of better movies that put Italians in a bad light. I bet you all watch The Sopranos every Sunday huh?
Charming as heck, it follows the path of an ignorant fellow, Sasha, who has a heart of bronze and a head of stone, as he tries to pursue his dreams of love, boxing, and just trying to get by after he's banished from Bensonhurst, the only place he wants to be! He may be stupid but he looks real good.
And Talisa Soto is wonderfully beautiful, both ripe and delicious! Lots of laughs, local color, and an original for sure!
Maybe people don't like the fact that Spike implies strongly that life goes on even amidst crack, ethnic violence, and corruption and doesn't preach about these things - just presents them as facts of the local situation, without letting them get in the way of humor? Somehow, the movie leaves you amused and feeling good in spite or even because of some of the more graphic stuff it shows you.
To be fair, director (and co-writer) Paul Morrissey does manage to create some great atmosphere; you can really feel the heat and grit in the air. But in the end, about the only interest the movie manages to generate is having the viewer wonder why the Pepsi corporation though it was a good idea to let the filmmakers make multiple plugs for Diet Pepsi throughout the movie.
But the Mafia father played by the recently late Ernest Borgnine doesn't like Spike being with his daughter uses his Mafia ways to keep them apart, meanwhile Spike life in Bensonhurst went downhill.
So he makes his life in Red Hook by the Battery Tunnel, a heavy Puerto Rican rundown neighborhood. Befriends Bandana (Rick Aviles - Willy Lopez on Ghost) and starts another life in Red Hook. He meets India takes a shine to as well and eventually got her pregnant. So he is torn between two ladies.
Even Sasha's fake Italian accent is cheesy, but he makes it work. One final thing, the movie moves too quickly paying little attention in the storyline so this is why I make it a 7. It has potential.
Finally for those who think the stereotypes people, it really does not. What it shows, are very weak people (The Congresswoman, Bandana's mother, Angel, Spike's parents etc) who will do whatever they think is necessary to survive (Even if it is wrong)). The only ones to rise above it all are Spike and India. A superior film.
This is a hilarious, non-P.C. spoof of Rocky in which our hero is too handsome to fight in anything but rigged bouts, yet he thinks he can be a contender. What he really wants, however, is to impress the Bensonhurst mafia boss enough to land a cushy job working for organized crime. Spike is a likable guy, who in any other movie would emerge as the triumphant hero. His problem is that he doesn't have any ambition, and there are some misunderstandings as the plot unfolds, so life deals him some tough lessons. Not only a hilarious movie, but sincerely touching too. Look for Mrs. Benjamin Bratt in her first role.
It's actually strange that although Italian-American activists that have complained about "The Godfather" and other similar films most of which were considered monumentally well made and won academy awards (oscars)(with the exception of Disneys' "Mafia") didn't complain about "Spike of Bensonhurst". This may very well be because it is was much lesser known film that hadn't received much attention.