This Spike Lee film examines the life of an aspiring actress in New York. She is upset by the treatment of women in the movie industry during one of her screen tests with 'QT'. Out of work ... See full summary »
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.
Strike is a young city drug pusher under the tutelage of drug-lord Rodney Little, who, when not playing with model trains or drinking Moo for his ulcer, just likes to chill with his brothers near the benches outside the project houses. When a night man at a fast-food restaurant is found with four bullets in his body, Strike's older brother turns himself in as the killer. Det. Rocco Klein doesn't buy the story, however, and sets out to find the truth, and it seems that all the fingers point toward Strike & Rodney. Written by
Michael Silva <email@example.com>
gritty, truthful crime drama that takes formula and makes it gripping and incendiary
I was glad to see on the special edition DVD of Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing to see how he answered the question asked at Cannes as to why there weren't drugs portrayed in the film; his answer, simply, was that there wasn't enough space dramatically, that it would be too much to fit drugs into a story already loaded with racism in a small neighborhood. But, as he followed, he could use what it means to have drugs in an urban environment, and what it does to the people, and have that as a stand-alone movie. He followed this up, in part, with the Samuel L. Jackson storyline in Jungle Fever, and thanks to Richard Price's novel and original script, he has here what might be his answer to that question. It's not a very great movie, perhaps, because by this time Spike Lee has so much invested in the style of his cinematic theatrics, of how the nature of the camera itself related to those of the characters, that it comes close to going over substance. But it's is a worthy attempt at putting into context, via the conventions of genre going back to the 40s, as to what makes or breaks the ties between drug dealers and their workers, and how the workers (or 'Clockers' as per the title of the movie) go about their business in the streets.
Clockers has a main plot that pushes along, as the murder by multiple gun-shots of a Darryl, black fast-food worker, who was also apart of the crew of Rodney (Delroy Lindo), call into question who might have done it. At first, it seems pretty open and shut, as Victor (Isaiah Washington) comes forth and admits he did it in self-defense. Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel) doesn't buy it, seems too easy, so he asks around, digs deeper, and sees that his brother, Strike (Mekhi Pfeifer) seems to be much more of the guilty party, by way of how he handles himself in the streets, his repore with Rodney, and as having more motive to kill Darryl. It's through this that Lee then branches it out to make it as much as character as about plot, where the ties between certain characters, like Strike and Tyrone, a pre-teen who looks up to Strike like a surrogate father, are mostly defined by how the neighborhood works out in the open. The clockers are bunch of would-be gang-bangers who talk a lot of talk, but haven't walked nearly as much as Earle, best friend of Rodney's and psychopathic murder, or Rodney himself, who has that veneer of being like the one you can trust the most- half surrogate father as well and half good cop/bad cop boss- until he gets crossed.
Although Price's material, which comes through with the energy and occasional wit, is noticeable throughout, it's really Spike Lee as director and many of the actors who make this a consistently watchable movie. Lee is never one to be too subtle with the camera, and he has variations with how he deals with the material to make it very observant but also subjective. Early on, for example, we see the clockers making their deals in the park in long-shot, shaky, as if Lee's filming it far away for a reality TV show. But then we also see the 360 degree camera moves as Klein questions Strike. There's many camera moves that are practically trademark Lee shots, especially with the lighting, as Klein questions Tyrone, or when we see a flashback to Victor having to deal with some clockers. It's all very flamboyant and meant to call attention to the material, and aside from a few unneeded music choices (it's the only time you'll hear Seal in a drug dealer crime movie), he's on top of things. Meanwhile, the performances are all top-notch, usually, as Keitel and particularly Lindo play their characters so well by pretty much being how we think the actors 'really' are, even though they're not. Pfeifer has a little trickier a time with his performance, because he usually is on a very similar note: I didn't do nothing, is his usual beat. His character also has the intriguing qualities that mark him as something of an outsider however in he might be: his stomach virus, which is never resolved but always looming over him, and his love of electric train-sets.
And all the while, Clockers succeeds in presenting a time and place where there should be little to no hope, and it makes the cops and criminals both pretty well-rounded when compared to other genre films. The cops are meant to be the good guys, but there's also a steady conflict between Klein and his partner: why should Klein care so much as to who did it or why (Strike also asks this question towards the end, in one of the best scenes in the film)? And Strike and Rodney are not cut-outs from black exploitation flicks, but with more of a push and pull tie that is always a threat, never a comfort. There are little details that help make Lee's film interesting when it veers into being like a television serial; the white yuppies who get entangled in the case; the over-protective but very smart cop (Keith David, always a pro) who also tries to play surrogate father to Tyrone, albeit without the same care, however negative, as Strike has; the brief shots of the drug addicts with their habits on display, as we only need to see it for less than a minute to get the nature of the bottom of the food chain, which is total despair. Lee's film, however, isn't really disparaging as it has moments of hope, yet a hope meant to be in understanding that there's no easy way out of all of this.
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