This film looks at life in the Bedford-Stuyvesant district of Brooklyn on a hot summer Sunday. As he does everyday, Sal Fragione opens the pizza parlor he's owned for 25 years. The neighborhood has changed considerably in the time he's been there and is now composed primarily of African-Americans and Hispanics. His son Pino hates it there and would like nothing better than to relocate the eatery to their own neighborhood. For Sal however, the restaurant represents something that is part of his life and sees it as a part of the community. What begins as a simple complaint by one of his customers, Buggin Out - who wonders why he has only pictures of famous Italian-Americans on the wall when most of his customers are black - eventually disintegrates into violence as frustration seemingly brings out the worst in everyone. Written by
If I had to make a list of the top ten things that I find most boring, racism would be right at the summit along with economics and The Blair Witch Project. For that reason, I have avoided Do the Right Thing up until now for fear that it would be a lecture on racism...but actually, I don't know what I was afraid of, as this film is really good. Spike Lee's racial drama is actually more a film about the feebleness of racial divides and how violence only breeds violence, as opposed to a film ABOUT racism. In fact, the film can be best described as a cinematic materialisation of Martin Luther King's famous "an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind" speech.
For this movie, Spike Lee has put together a terrific cast, that includes many actors that have gone on to become big names in the movie industry, people such as Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro and Martin Lawrence, not to mention smaller stars such as Ossie Davis. The cast comes together excellently and the neighbourhood that Spike Lee has created for this film feels very real, and through the multiple personalities that inhabit it, it manages to stay interesting and realistic throughout. The atmosphere of the neighbourhood is also of note, and you really do get the feeling that someone could say 'biatch' or 'dogg' at any time. Spike Lee delights in showing us many different people, and at different times - including their reactions to certain events and their interactions with each other, and it all helps to build up both their own characters and the neighbourhood that they live in. This proves to be invaluable to the film as it has no real plot and therefore relies on the characters and the neighbourhood that it has created to build itself, it's scenario and therefore it's message, up.
Do the Right Thing is a portrait of how multiple cultures live together in modern day America and it also succeeds in being a stark and potent portrayal of how violence never gets anyone anywhere. Spike Lee has shown his talents as an actor, director and a writer with this film, and even though majority opinion of him seems to be that he's a disagreeable old crone; at least he's one that has talent.
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