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Lee's most underrated film, without a doubt
chikejeffers14 April 2001
It angers me how overlooked this film is.

It is not an easy film. It is bleak and at times very off-putting. Actually, if you are a thinking, caring person, this is movie is overall heart-breaking.

But it is brilliant and, for the person who truly tries to understand it, a compelling, insightful look at the problems killing black America today. The only reason for the film's lack of recognition I can imagine is that its subject matter had been examined a number of times before. But the inescapable fact is that this one of the best examinations of the subject matter there has been on screen - on par with "Boyz N The Hood".

And it is FAR from uncreative. In fact, on one level, it is not a "hood" movie, but a whodunit. The mystery aspect of the plot is very interesting. But there are other, more important layers. It is the story of the confusion and crisis of a young man's life. Most importantly, it is a brutal look at drugs, guns, and life in the projects. It is a movie asking why so many young black men are dying in the streets.

The lead character Strike has a stomach problem. It might be an ulcer or something like that. I believe it is a metaphor. Just as heat represented racial tension in Lee's masterpiece "Do The Right Thing", Strike's sickness represents the illnesses plaguing the ghetto: drugs, guns, liquor.

Like DTRT, this film looks at community. The mothers, the cops, the young people, the kids, the men trying to make a living - there is eloquent commentary in "Clockers" on the situations of all. In Spike's movies, paying a little attention is rewarding. A good essay could be written on what I call the Spike Summarization technique. This is when Spike compresses a serious debate or concern in the black community into a few expressive moments of action or dialogue. There are better examples in other movies, but it manifests in "Clockers" a few times. A bunch of kids are sitting in front of Rodney's (Delroy Lindo) shop; one of the kids is rapping while the others pay attention. The two sides to the coin: we feel the artistry and skill of the moment, the continuation of a rich tradition of oral art; we're also struck by the cruelty and coldness in the kid's violent lyrics, and we think about where that comes from.

Stylistically, this movie is a huge success. The cinematography is amazing, and I wonder what must be wrong with my tastes when I'm floored by a film like this and find visually bland a more oft-praised classic. The projects become blinding panoramas, landscapes which add tons of meaning to the poignant ending (I won't reveal it here). The sound is great; many films of this nature use hip hop in the soundtrack to produce certain effects, but "Clockers" does it in a more methodical way which jars some people, but contributes to the film's meaning.

I could say more about the film, but I encourage you to just see it, along with the rest of Spike's oeuvre. He's not a perfect filmmaker, and some of his best films are marred by elements that don't work, but I feel his consistency in terms of delivering brilliance is not below most of the cinema's most celebrated auteurs.
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spike lee "joint"? police procedural? Clockers brings the best of both worlds
mikel weisser16 December 2001
When Spike Lee applies his formidable talents to a genre piece like Richard Price's best selling drug noir novel, "Clockers," you might wonder what kind of hybrid you'll get. Lee is justly famous for his incendiary agitprop films of ideas which dissect race relations and urban living, sometimes at the expense of cohesive storytelling; but working with source material as thought provoking a novel as "Clockers," which is set in Lee's home base of "Crooklyn," er, i mean Brooklyn, Spike finds the right mix of action, angst, and intellectualism for his strengths to shine. "Clockers" are petty drug dealers who work around the clock pushing their wares. When one turns up dead and a stand up citizen steps up to take the fall, a homicide detective begins unraveling the complex dynamics of life and dealing in the 'hood. Lee gets his usual gritty street landscape to work with and Price gets a director with a cinematic eye (thanks to standard Lee lens-er, Malik Hassan Sayeed)and a playwright's heart. Central character brothers Isaiah Washington and Mekhi Phifer (in his star making role) turn in complex credible performances but are easily outshone by the astonishingly strong acting out of Harvey Keitel, Delroy Lindo, Regina Taylor (who won awards for her work here), Keith David, and Lee regulars John Turturro and Thomas Byrd. Lindo is particularly impressive. This film may have been too gritty for general audiences with its brutal depiction of urban violence and emotional brutality. And it may have been a bit too stylized for the Saturday night drive-in set wanting a brainless shoot 'em up; but for those interested in quality film making on a hugely important issue that also functions as an engaging who done it, Spike Lee does it up royal in this, perhaps Lee's most, accessible film.
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A good moral tale about drugs and NYC
bob the moo19 November 2001
Strike (Phifer) works as a drug runner (clocker) in a NY ghetto for dealer Rodney (Delroy Lindo). When someone kills one of Rodney's enemies Detective Klein (Keitel) investigates. Strike's brother Victor (Washington) confesses but suspicion points to Strike. Klein suspects that Victor is covering for his brother and begins to put the heat on Strike for more information.

The main plot is a form of crime thriller, with Keitel playing the cop trying to uncover the truth behind the murder. However the plot is not what this film is about - this is basically a film about the effects on drugs on the NY ghettos. Strike is the "average black man", while his protégé, Tyrone (Peewee Love) is "black youth". The film tries to show the forces placed on them by their situation, their role models and the few options they have in life. Rodney represents the draw of selling drugs, of quick money while policemen Andre (Keith David) and Klein represent his conscience trying to get him to do the right thing - Andre and Tyrone's mother (Regina Taylor) particularly doing right by your own community.

The message is at times forced, Keitel's sequence towards the end is very clever cinematically but feels a bit like a sermon, but at other times we're allowed to work it out ourselves. Strike is not judged but allowed to be pulled by the situation around him, his sickness representing the sickness of his situation. Through him we see the pressures that are on him to act like his peers and the bad role-models he has in his life. In Shorty we see the same things affect the next generation and, while his aping of Strike is clumsy, you again see how the lack of good role-models reduces the options for an otherwise intelligent kid. The best thing about the comparison of Lindo and Keitel is that neither is judged - both are allowed to show themselves as appealing, Lindo appears as a parent, almost seeking the best for all his workers and Keitel is allowed to be an honest cop with a good moral code. However both are also seen in a bad light, Lindo brings out the violence, pressure and treachery of his character - a man who is really out for himself while the way Keitel pressures Strike is seen as bad as Rodney's pressure and reveals a racist angry streak within himself. We are left wondering how anyone can survive between the two.

Phifer is good as Strike and manages to avoid just doing a ghetto-movie type of performance, he makes you believe that he is trapped in a no-win situation. Isaiah Washington gives another in a string of strong performances as the honest man trying to get by. Lindo is great as drug dealer Rodney, mixing paternal aspirations with moments of sudden viciousness. Keitel and John Turturro act below their station and aren't given much to work with, Keitel especially doesn't always manage to carry the moral core of the story without preaching. Two small roles of interest are Tom Byrd as Errol who has plays the fallen dealer with AIDS, however not enough is explained about his character, also Michael Imperioli (better known as Chris in The Sopranos) plays bent cop Jo-Jo. Peewee Love stands out as Shorty/Shorty, sucked into a world that lacks choice.

The film looks great, the whole thing has a bright colourful sheen on it that is very attractive to look at. Combined with Lee's stylish director it makes for a beautiful film - although some scenes are shot differently and on different stock, to make a point, although I'm not sure what that point is. The music is as good as most of Lee's movies, a mix of soul and hip hop, it is better than many ghetto films that just assume that the hip hop is all that's needed to help the mood.

This is a good example of the lack of options that exist in the ghetto and, besides some very obvious preaching, it makes it's point without shouting it at the audience. The only failing is that Lee bottles it near the end, delivering a sentimental ending of hope that is unfortunately not the truth in many cases.
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Lee's most mature work
Eric-8427 May 1999
In 1995 I considered Spike Lee's gritty CLOCKERS one of the year's best films; recently I spotted its video in a clearance bin and picked it up. Upon re-viewing, I am struck again by its complexity. It is the first urban drama to depict inner-city race relations with the intricacy such a pervasive cultural issue demands. On the surface it resembles a whodunit, but its main concern is how drugs and violence contaminate entire communities, dramatized in the collapse of one African-American youth's life. (He chokes up blood the way some of us sweat.) This process is observed by a predominantly white police force that makes hollow attempts to keep order, and refuses to intervene with the community's gradual decline.

Instead of characters with overt prejudices and plain racial allegiances-characters that are sterile symbols of bigotry rather than credible humans guilty of it-Lee gives us characters of casual racism. Most representative of this is Harvey Keitel's Rocco Klein, a white detective who cannot understand the culture surrounding him, which is a culture of narcotics, violence, and black-on-black crime. On his beat, drugs are less a problem than a lifestyle, murder resolves the tiniest of disagreements, and young mothers valiantly but vainly battle the influence young dealers have on their sons. Klein views the inner-city with contempt, but deep down he knows all the whores and dealers are human beings, too.

Klein is introduced at the scene of a homicide, where the police handle the gruesome death with a clinical sense of detachment, cracking bad jokes and asking the bloodied corpse questions. Is it just a job, or is it racism? For Klein, it's both: he needs the gallows humor to psychologically deal with this culture of depravity. What's fascinating about CLOCKERS is Lee's willingness-and guts-to present Klein, despite his prejudice, as the film's hero. Lee understands that casual racism is simply endemic and inescapable in American culture. What he appreciates is Klein's ability to transcend his own prejudice and finally do the right thing.
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Another great film from Spike Lee.
camcmahon17 March 2005
I've just finished this film and I thought it was excellent. I've never read the book, and based on other people's comments it sounds like it might be a hard book to adapt for the screen, what with it (apparently) dealing with a lot of abstract issues. However, looking at this film from the standpoint of having never read the book I thought the story was brilliant, it engrossed me to the end. Mekhi Phifer was great, he played the part well, personally I thought he conveyed a wide range of emotions and all of them very well. There was some great character development, especially on the part of Delroy Lindo (another great performance).

Lee did a good job in his portrayal of the drug culture in the projects, as well as taking a look into the police's side of the story. The story interested me from the beginning and I didn't feel my interest waver once, in fact is grew steadily throughout the film. The images of dead bodies shown at the beginning made a strong starting point, and served as an immediate reminder that the themes dealt with in the film are occurring all the time.

On a side note, I thought the resemblance of Shorty's game 'Gansta' to today's GTA: San Andreas was pretty funny.
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Perfect movie
garage5inc10 December 2002
Clockers refers to drug dealers who work around the clock on an organized schedule. The movie takes place in no other city than New York, Spike Lee's trademark as a director. Strike (Phiefer) is a clocker who works with his friends in the park selling high potency drugs to neighborhood people, under the command of Rodney, the drug dealer of the area. Rodney tells Strike if he wants to get off the benches he should kill a man named Daryl who is selling ounces and making lots of cash, Strike considers it, but he isn't a killer. That night Strike's brother Victor comes into the bar and is mentally upset and talks to Strike. A little later Daryl is killed by four gunshots, one in the leg, one in the head, one in the chest, and one caught between his teeth. Spike Lee shows off the gritty urban street crime life here perfectly. Harvey Keitel and John Turturro play homicide detectives who take the case, and the clockers are the main suspects.

Clockers is a surreal look at the drug buisness, friendship, descision making, and death in the city. This movie has a flawless cast, the clockers, the detectives, and Rodney and Harold the dealers are perfect. The script is great too, as it has suprises, good dialogue, action, and setting. The direction is almost perfect, especially the last scene with the train, Spike Lee is one of the most underrated directors ever. This movie is made to please, action lovers will find it interesting, and film buffs should find it fascinating! Keep an open mind from beginning to end and analyze ever scene with its content. Great movie 10/10
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Smart and entertaining with lots going on emotionally and subjectively.
johnnyboyz20 April 2008
I tend to enjoy films like Clockers; films that open up ideas about several things at once; films that make you think about the world in which they're set, the people in which inhabit them and the choices they must face – some of which are unfortunate through being mandatory. Spike Lee is no fool and a lot of his early work on recent viewings seem to revolve around someone stuck in a situation that is a mere result of their emotional drive and the world they are living in: She's Gotta Have it; Jungle Fever and Clockers are good examples of protagonists committing an action they really shouldn't have (and probably didn't want to but buckled under either temptation or peer pressure) and now must face the consequences. But these consequences will affect more than merely the hero.

Lee does not hang around in presenting or perhaps delivering his subject matter as a whole. The thing that amazes me with Lee is that he can write so many different types of characters: low grade African-Americans, educated and seemingly decent African-Americans; white cops; women of different ethnicity and a few others. In Clockers, the opening scene which integrates with the credits is of a somewhat crude and humiliating public autopsy during which a couple of white cops examine a dead black man in front of a watching black crowd. Two of these detectives are Rocco Klein (Keitel) and Larry Mazilli (Turturro) but the scene acts as one final act of humiliation to an already dead black man as they search his carcase for clues and bullet holes.

But the film has more than one current flowing throughout it. Strike (Phifer) plays a neighbourhood African-American who speaks and acts just like all his drug dealing friends, even hanging with them when they act out their drug selling routine to customers in a staged manner. But Strike is different and Lee wants us to create an alternate profile of the man by giving him milkshakes to drinks and trains to collect, set up in his apartment, maintain and run. The others laugh at this hobby but Strike maintains most of them too have hobbies: collecting welfare cheques. But this is the greatness of a character like Strike; we are led to believe he is a bad influence through the dialogue of a police man named Andre the Giant (David) but this is perhaps just another cop's point of view and opinion on another African American kid.

Andre believes Strike to be a bad influence on Tyrone (Love) but what Andre fails to notice is that there are higher, more criminal minds badly influencing Strike and that is more of a problem than Strike talking to Tyrone. The film is about a seemingly nice and somewhat moral 'gangstar' who is put in a situation where murder is the only way out, and we go through the narrative with the emphasis on this moral gangstar that he is actually a cold blooded killer in an excellent and very effective piece of atmosphere. But this is a slow burner and it slowly burns away at our opinion because there is a scene in Strike's apartment when he talks to Tyrone all about drugs and guns, apparently Tyrone should stay away from taking drugs but selling them will bring him a nice chunk of change; however guns are something that Tyrone should seriously consider getting into. To top this scene off, Tyrone is told that mathematics is also a very good thing. Already, Lee is trying to manipulate and force us to change out minds as to weather we like Strike. Is he a killer? Does he know drugs should be completely avoided? Why does he suggest Tyrone get a gun one day? Or is it just a misguided fool repeating what he once heard and saying what he thinks is right. Interesting how later on Tyrone repeats train information to another person after sort of adopting a 'Strike' figure.

But the film has some more strong points. Rodney Little (Lindo) thinks that just because he has had a shotgun in the mouth and was manipulated into murder, he can do it to others. Little himself asks Strike "How are you so smart and so stupid?" in a scene that actually has someone echo Strike's personality to his face. Little's background in presented in a nasty and somewhat disturbing fashion via flashback to the days when he was younger with Errol Barnes (Byrd), the resident 'hood psychopath-come-criminal who seems to have some distorted views to do with religion. With all this in the melting plot, it's no wonder the film does a good job in maintain interest and quality delivery. Lee does not fail to focus on his subject matter like he does in Summer of Sam when tackling the psychological development of a serial killer and a love triangle at the same time became messy. Instead, he does not get sidetracked with any unnecessary sub-plots and keeps the delivery sharp, realistic and intriguing when the final act comes to an end.
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Lacks grip
Chris L2 December 2013
Martin Scorcese was originally scheduled to direct Clockers, would he have done a better job than Spike Lee ? Did the latter lack ambition or should the novel be blamed for being not catchy enough ? Those are a few questions emerging after finishing this movie.

Because if the story is rather interesting and carried by good cast (though under-exploited), it lacks intensity in order to really implicate the viewer. The scenes follow each other in a certain monotony and shallowness inevitably prejudicial, and the dramatic progression is extremely weak, not to say almost non-existent. Therefore, you're never captivate by this chronicle and the overlong passages don't help either. One could also regret an editing a bit sloppy with flashbacks and others not that pertinent.

Anyway, in the ghetto movie genre, others have depicted much better, and with a lot more grip, the everyday life of these neighbourhoods, like Menace II Society for example.
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Almost deep and soul searching
gcd7026 March 2008
Warning: Spoilers
This Spike Lee 'joint' concerns the subject of drug related murder. Lee opens the film with a most sombre body count, setting the scene for a deep, soul searching film that never really eventuates.

One can imagine the original story, from Richard Price's novel, was an intriguing and thought provoking one about a family man with an impeccable employment record who steps forward to claim responsibility for a killing that detective Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel) is just not convinced he committed.

Lee doesn't focus on this strong narrative though, he rather concentrates on the culture of the 'clockers' (drug dealers) in Harlem and his rather pathetic central character, Ronald 'Strike' Dunham (Mekhi Phifer). So obsessed is our director with these two aspects of his film, that everything else suffers greatly and the movie is thus never able to take hold of its audience.

Class actors like Harvey Keitel and John Turturro have very little to do, with everybody being mere background to lead player Phifer. While the clever plot is all but ignored, Phifer is left to carry the show from beginning to end, which he isn't quite able to do (though he puts in a solid performance). Spike has missed the target here, even if cinematography is spot on.

Saturday, July 20, 1996 - Video
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gritty, truthful crime drama that takes formula and makes it gripping and incendiary
MisterWhiplash19 April 2007
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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Spike Lee's early film is solid
PersianPlaya40822 September 2006
Spike Lee's urban drama about a drugpusher who the police become suspicious towards after a man is found with 4 bullets in him in their neighborhood. This is a good early film from Spike Lee, he later built on this film's theme with much better films in He Got Game and The 25th Hour. But this one was also solid, with some very good performances and certain very good scenes. The screenplay was pretty good, based on Price's own book, and i liked Phifer, Turturro and Keitel a lot in this. Good cinematography from Malik Hassan Sayeed and editing from Smuael D. Pollard. Terence Blanchard's score is also not bad. overall a solid mid 90s film from Spike Lee.--- IMDb Rating: 6.8, my rating: 8/10
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Absolutely stunning Inner-City drama
intentiv27 May 2003
This movie is very misunderstood. I've heard people call it stereotypical, but this is only because they missed the obvious. The stereotypical aspect people see is all part of the story. The white police stereotypically harassing the street dealers is only stereotypical because society so commonly commits the very same actions. The movie is all about blame, who society blames, who society would like to blame, and sometimes whomever can be blamed. In actuality the movie has an extremely tense message about accepting ones own blame, while all throughout the movie blame is wrongly placed on nearly everyone. To avoid spoiling the movie I won't be overly specific but by the end of the movie Spike Lee had painted Injustice onto the screen.
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A Review For Clockers (some spoilers)
dee.reid24 October 2001
Warning: Spoilers
Strike(Mekhi Phifer) is a "clocker" or 24-hour drug dealer. Strike, along with five other clockers: Scientific(Sticky Fingaz), Go(Fredro Starr), Horace(E.O. Nolasco), Stan(Lawrence B. Adisa), and Skills(Hassan Johnson) all work the benches inside the housing projects in New York City. They are constantly being harassed by the police who often come and search them for any drugs they may have in their possession. Strike who is getting tired and stressed out from working the benches, asks his boss Rodney(Delroy Lindo) to see if he can move up to a better position in the New York drug trade. Rodney tells Strike the only way to do it is if he kills another clocker named Darryl Adams(Steve White) who works as the night manager at Ahab's Burger, a local restaurant. So one night, Strike patiently waits for Darryl to come out from the Ahab's, but Strike decides to into a local bar. Sometime later, Darryl is found dead, the victim of an apparent street crime. This introduces us to NYPD Homicide Detectives Rocco Klein(Harvey Keitel) and Larry Mazilli(John Turturro). When they arrive at the crime scene, they find the officers joking around as they search Darryl's bloody corspe for any evidence. The police soon after gather enough evidence to pin the perpetrator of the crime on Strike. Before they can arrest him though, Strike's decent and hard-working brother, Victor(Isaiah Washington) turns himself into the police as the murderer. Rocco doesn't believe Victor's story since he doesn't believe Victor had any real reason to murder Darryl. But he does believe however, that since Strike went bad and did have a motive to kill Darryl and Victor remained a good person, that Strike is the real murderer, but can he prove it?

This is in fact Spike Lee's most underrated film, even more underrated than his epic Malcolm X. Clockers offers an inside look into the world of black on black crime. What's even more disturbing about Clockers is that it opens up playing Marc Dorsey's song "People In Search Of A Life" while showing us bloody crime scene photos. I heard that Spike Lee said he did this for "the maximum effect". I guess that means he wanted show us the true nature of street crime and the effect it has on the community where they happen.

Mekhi Phifer makes an impressive film debut as Strike, the lead clocker. He isn't necessarily a bad person nor is he a good person either. His influence on Tyrone Jeeter(Pee Wee Love) a young boy whom Strike takes under his wing, is frightening, as well as it is disturbing. Tyrone begins the same sort of transformation that Strike went through after Rodney got a hold of him. As Strike tells Tyrone about Errol Barnes, "Oh, don't think that just cuz your a kid and all, that he won't smoke you. Why just last year I heard he caught himself a 10-year old." A striking moment in the movie that shows street crime can happen to anyone, even kids.

Keith David gives a terrific, yet under-used performance as Andre The Giant, a local housing police officer who tries unsuccessfully to keep Tyrone from becoming like Strike.

I think one of the most over-looked performance here however is Thomas Jefferson Byrd who plays Errol Barnes, a middle-aged man who is dying of AIDS. He is Rodney's right-hand man and is also a known child murderer. ***SPOILERS AHEAD*** Spike Lee also creates a sort of ironic twist-of-fate for Errol towards the end of the movie.

Clockers is a very disturbing film that should have gotten more attention from critics as well as the movie public.

I loved this movie and I never get tired of watching it.

Clockers gets a 10/10
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Little To Like From Spike
ccthemovieman-123 July 2007
For the longest time, it has been - or was - politically-incorrect to criticize director Spike Lee, so he gets away with murder in a number of his overrated films. Lee, in his obnoxiousness because of this fawning, doesn't care or doesn't get it that most of America doesn't want to go to a film that has over 300 profanities in it and tons of drugs and violence. If he only cares about appeasing his crowd, okay, but that doesn't mean I have to like or praise everything he does, like Roger Ebert and the rest of them.

For the uniformed - and we're better off, in this case - "clockers" is a ghetto term for "drug runners or dealers."

In this story, it's drug dealers and cops, innocent people and thugs and an investigation (is Mekhi Phifer's "Strike" guilty or innocent?) to get it all sorted out. Unfortunately, it takes too long for all of this to happen. In between the million f-words, and more preaching by the racist director, you have to put up with music that was so loud it drowned out the dialog a number of times. Maybe that wasn't so bad.
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did spike lee actually read the novel?
JosephKay7 January 2005
richard price's book is about the odd humanity of the drug war - basically that underneath something so destructive to our culture we find, on both sides, cops and clockers, real ordinary people with real lives real failure, real dreams, capable of real humanity and real evil at the same time - price never glorifies crime, never makes either side "cool", never sets his words to an artificial rhythm other than the rhythm of an ordinary world - price understands ordinary people and the endless cycle of violence that permeates everything - yet despite this great source material lee's film is myopic in that in only attributes humanity to the clockers, artificial in that it lionizes street culture - amazingly, he takes a simple and real story and makes it into the usual lee ethereal mess (which sometimes works, "do the right thing" being one of the best movies ever made) ... too bad... instead of watching this move watch any single episode of the hbo series "the wire" and you'll get a better sense of the genius of the price novel.
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This is WEAK...
gveltman18 November 2011
Although I have only seen a few of Spike Lee's films, I am already beginning to place him very low on the ladder of the best directors alive today. Clockers fails, in my opinion, because the film's premise is lacking substance to begin with; the story is lackluster to the max. On top of this, where the film had its opportunities to reel in the audience emotionally, it instead dropped the ball. Moments where energy, tension, and suspense were supposed to effused were disappointingly overridden with anticlimactic slumps in action. The choking scene in the car as well as when Mekhi is being beat up in the park, with their odd selection of music, seem unfulfilled in their potential to capitalize on emotional appeal.

I will say the denouement is shot with expert precision. Lee's patented cinematographic maneuver, the double dolly, is on full display. Moreover, his use of low-key lighting in some specific scenes that illustrate the proliferation of drugs inside the projects are done in a professionally haunting manor. Unfortunately, these instances are rare, overshadowed by the weak portions previously discussed.

With regards to Lee's film style in Clockers, I like to point out two of his techniques that I find terribly annoying: 1) Those stupid circling gliding shots around characters when they are talking. 2) His persistent use of intense music to compliment serious(at least Lee thinks they must be) scenes. When put together, these two devices serve to create the ultimate exaggeration of the weight a scene carries in this film. Doing a flashy gliding pan across the park accompanied by pounding sound while Tyrone's mother yells at Mekhi and his boys about his haircut is a little excessive. Instead, I think Clocker's would benefit from a greater variation in the levels of stress and emotion we experience in each scene. This way, when the film actually does come to a TRULY significant moment, the audience will become more invested in the action.

P.S. I don't think anyone from the projects would actually where a complete Arizona wildcats uniform. Just the jersey, not the shorts.
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Trades in Objectivity for a Teacherish understanding of the Subject
lylewins19 February 2011
Let me say that I just finished the novel, and have only just watched the film.

I try not to be one of those people who reads a book, watches the movie, and then tears the latter apart, but there are some significant issues that come to mind when considering this adaptation.

1: There is just too much music and scoring.

Thus the whole thing feels artificial, or like an after-school special come to life with ghetto undertones. I'm not quite sure why Spike Lee would have chosen this presentation, though perhaps it was to create an expected emotional bond with his audience that he felt was lacking due to the large ensemble cast, or maybe he didn't trust the performances of his actors. Regardless, the overall effect cheapens the drama and removes all the real life consequence the story and characters naturally possess (as written).

2: The acting comes across as preachy.

Consequently, the whole film seems like it trying to prove a point (and nothing else). On the one hand, it's saying to the kids growing up in the projects that, "This is no way to live. Let me show you how." And on the other, it's reaching out to the dominantly white congress, senate, electorate & bureaucracy, and trying to show these people the human cost of their ignorance, bad public policy making & flawed humanitarian ideals and voting.

So the thing is, Richard Price's writing is excruciatingly realistic, and his novel, though not without its genre tropes, is equally exacting, and poignant.

This film, however, feels like a very well-hearted effort to render the former, but that gets lost in way too much ideology.
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Don't hate the player, hate the game.
tieman6420 November 2013
Warning: Spoilers
An adaptation of Richard Price's novel of the same name, Spike Lee's "Clockers" opens with a series of gory crime-scene photographs. The intention is to shock and disturb, but Lee's photos are subject to incessant zoom-ins and close-ups of bullet wounds, all of which are distractingly manipulative. A better director would have let these photographs – which were all staged – speak for themselves. Lee, though, likes excess.

Still, "Clockers" nevertheless finds Lee doing some of his best work. The cinematic equivalent of Ice Cube's "It Was a Good Day" blasting from a loudspeaker in Opposite Land, the film stars Mekhi Phifer as Strike, a Brooklyn drug dealer who's having the worse damn week of his life. As the film progresses, Strike will find himself hounded by the police, his family, other families and various high and low-level drug dealers. Epitomizing the effect of outside forces on Strike is a painful stomach ulcer which worsens as Lee's film progresses. Eventually Strike begins to bleed from the mouth and is forced to drink only magnesium hydroxide "milk".

Unsurprisingly, Lee sympathises dearly with Strike. His film, like its introductory photographs, is preoccupied with the physical and psychic effect of violence on black bodies. Strike is himself repeatedly hounded, symbolically raped (once by cops, once by a black gangster called Rodney), is battered by protective mothers, stomped on by housing cops and kicked-in by other street urchins until his ulcer bursts. For Lee, Strike is a criminal who is more sinned against than is sinning.

Though a foul-mouthed, violent film, Lee's aesthetic exudes a certain warmth. He's in love with urban life, with Brooklyn brownstones, and his tone is often sentimental, warm and sepia-tinted, with homey interiors and loving shots of promenades and train sets. The film doesn't trivialise gang-life and the crack epidemic, but it shies away from harsher realities in favour for something more broad and melancholic. Strike is Lee's cocaine Christ, trapped in a seemingly inescapable whipping circle. The film ends with Strike on a train, curled up like an infant and hoping for rebirth.

Since the release of HBO's "The Wire", most crime films have been rendered obsolete. "The Wire", the brainchild of David Simon, had an expansive, novelistic quality, and carefully juggled neo-realism with literary/theatrical attributes. "Clockers", in contrast, sports much unconvincing dialogue, and the photogenic Mekhi Phifer is at times out of his depth. The film was written by Richard Prince, who would work with Simon on "The Wire". Simon himself cites Prince's early novels as an influence on his own work. These criss-crossing influences make Lee's "Clockers" simultaneously ahead of its time and behind ours.

7.9/10 – Worth two viewings. See "Freedomland".
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Justice is never black and white
p-stepien7 October 2012
Dope dealing on the Nelson Mandela projects in Brooklyn is the everyday bread of local hoodlum Ronald Dunham aka Strike (Mekhi Phifer). Staking the local park the line of work is relentlessly stressful causing a stress-induced ulcer, which he deals with by drinking down yoo-hoos by the litres. At night respite is found in the form of a trainset hobby, an voyeuristic escape from the reality he has accepted. When his boss Rodney Little (Delroy Lindo) hints towards the necessity of cropping one of his less trustworthy workers Strike confides to his brother Victor (Isaiah Washington). Soon after the murder is committed and Victor steps up to claim self defence. However hardliner detective Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel) quickly assumes this is a cover up for the true culprit.

One of Spike Lee's most accomplished works and a worryingly underrated gem bordering on a masterpiece. While showing artistic restraint in symbols and style, Spike Lee offers a well-devised structure, which lets the strength of the story carry itself. Especially in the final act Lee's well-tuned reserve makes for a heart-felt conclusion full of poignant suggestions, as to the nature of violence. Even the innocent can be corrupted needing a vent for their endless victimisation, while the corrupt seek innocence by befriending children reminiscent of them in their youth and dreaming about a life with 'no more packing'. The ultimately compassionate Rocco, previously shown as a no nonsense cop with a strong moral compass ultimately rejects 'Justice in Black and White', deciding that even the guilty are seldom dealt justice and takes on the role of a benevolent judge and jury - the antithesis of Dirty Harry and Judge Dredd, one more attuned to understand human faults, accept them, than issue warrants.

Nonetheless this self-conscious style of storytelling does backlash during build-up, as the convoluted plot mires midway with mild bouts of oversentimentilisation and underwritten character motivations, before finally hitting back with an astoundingly well-rounded finale. Nonetheless a brilliant and captivating movie, which ranks up there with Spike Lee's best with high probability of future rewatching pleasure. A big part of the success comes from disposing of the preacher like stance so predominant in many of Lee's weaker works.

Albeit mostly low-key and pretty standard the most significant scenes feature sudden detachment from traditional cinematography to a more detached, surreal focus, as if suggesting a detachment from the grim everyday reality of the protagonists offering escapist release from hardships. This offers some extremely imaginative cinematography by Malik Hassan Sayeed.
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Tribal Study.
Robert J. Maxwell5 May 2012
Warning: Spoilers
In this complicated tale of the pressures on Mekhi Phifer in the Brooklyn projects, director Spike Lee captures the values and the iconography of the African-American community well, as he usually does. You get a genuine sense of the simmering anger, the shifting allegiances, and the small reward system of the social world these pathetic people live in.

Pfifer is the central figure and he sweats a lot. No brighter or better than he should be, he's pressured from one side into dealing cocaine by local mogul Delroy Lindo. On the other side, he's pushed by the manipulative but well-intentioned detectives Harvey Keitel and Stanley Turturro. Pfifer's handsome and upright brother is under arrest for murder but Keitel believes that Pfifer is the culprit. Pfifer's brother is simply too good, too compliant, to have done the deed.

Nice ambiguity. Lee convincingly nails the diversity and solidarity of the community. It's like John Ford in the ghetto. Pfifer may be innocent of the crime of which Keitel is convinced he's guilty but he also deals dope. Keitel, for all his ploying the system, is determined to bring the guilty party to justice, though he may play a little dirty in getting the job done. And when he finds out that he's been wrong about who committed the murder, he does what such a person would do in real life. He hides his guilt behind a tirade of threats.

In a way, it's an improvement over Spike Lee's "Do The Right Thing." It doesn't turn all the cops into heavies. And it doesn't end with an ominous quote from Malcolm X.

The weakness of the film lies in Lee's allowing conversations to go on for too long. Pfifer gets a lot of screen time and when he's not chewing out his young brother (who will save his life) he's whining about his innocence. The exchanges, sometimes rising to shouts, go on too long and become tiring.

It's a devalued life these people lead. They wear clothes and they groom themselves in ways that appeal only to those in their immediate and limited social worlds. I'm beginning to develop an idea. The more you resemble someone who is upper class and British, the more your social worth. The farther removed you are from this model, the lower your status. If you could take Pfifer, dress him in riding clothes and teach him to play polo, and have him say "eck-tually" instead of "aks," and have him grow some hair on his shaved and shiny skull, he might not be thought guilty of anything except being too polite.
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Oscar-worthy. Incredible film.
tpaladino5 April 2012
I have no idea why this film wasn't nominated for an Oscar, and I especially have no idea why it's been seventeen years since the film was released and I'm just now seeing it. I've always been vaguely aware of it's existence as one of the 'other' Spike Lee films, but not much more. I certainly wasn't expecting to see some of his all-time best work, which it is.

This film should be mandatory viewing for every single high school in America, that's how important it is. Spike Lee paints a devastatingly realistic picture of inner-city life and the mortal perils that it's inhabitants face on a daily basis. There are no heroes, no angels, and no caricatures. It's all laid bare for the viewer to draw their own conclusion. Lee treats the audience with a level of respect and maturity that is almost unheard of in films that deal in such explosive and controversial subject matter. He trusts that the audience will understand the big picture and take away the appropriate lesson without being evangelized, and without resorting to the kind of cheap gimmickry and pandering that can often plague films of this genre.

Everyone should see this film. Literally everyone.
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A classic work of art!!
Kwahme McNeil25 September 2008
Clockers is a great film about moral reality and tough decision making when certain situations present themselves.Strike seems to be a good guy that makes the wrong choices and is reluctant of which way he wants to go either right or left. Caught in whirl wind of drama between his boss Rodney wanting him to murder hustler Daryl Adams, Tyrone the young kid that is looking for some direction, his brother Victor that has taken the rap for the murder, and detective Rocco Klein who won't stop believing that strike is Daryl's Killer.When it seems like everything can go wrong for Strike it does, Rocco sets strike up and makes Rodney believe that strike snitched on him. Rodney sends his partner in crime Errol to kill strike and Tyrone steps in kills Errol with strikes gun. This was a great urban drama by Spike Lee in crafting the reality of urban city life of drugs, murder and conspiracy.
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Crime and Punishment in the Projects
dalesh22 December 2002
Warning: Spoilers
Warning: Spoilers!! I know I am not the first to say this, but this movie can be compared to the novel "Crime and Punishment". Raskolnikov is Strike the young drug dealer. Strike is always feeling nauseous due to his ulcer. Raskolnikov was always sickly. Harvey Keitel plays a role similar to the Police Inspector in the novel. Who knew that Spike Lee read Russian literature. I like the main character, Strike, because he is a train buff. I never figured that black people in the ghettos or Projects would be train enthusiasts! OK, so I'm a white guy. I don't really like Rap music. I don't really know much about the black underclass culture that exists in the ghettos and projects but I'm trying to understand. This movie helped me learn a little bit about what life is like for these people. Strike is tied up in a murder, just like Raskolnikov was. Harvey Keitel likes Strike, but disdains his drug dealing. Harvey Keitel has more sympathy for these black people than do the other white cops. He helps coach one little black boy into saying that he killed a hoodlum in self defense so he wouldn't do hard time. Keitel's character wants to give Strike a break, so he exiles him from New York City to keep him from facing a certain conviction with a long prison sentence. At first I liked Delroy Lindo, because I thought that he was a simple shopkeeper, a good man trying to run a small business in a bad neighborhood. But that's deceptive because Lindo is a distributor for drugs and has a lot of the drug dealers under his controll. Lindo is basically a drug lord so he is not a good man! What was sad in this movie was seeing the apartment of Strike's mother. She was living in the Projects yet had the apartment as nicely furnished as she could manage. I could tell that she was a good woman who worried about her family while living in a world getting worse. What dignity! I liked the very last scene. Strike is sitting in the lounge car of an AmTrak train looking out the window at the desert scenery going by. Obviously, he did leave New York and went out West to start a new life! THis is a good movie.
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A realistic movie about Brooklyn
jillitafamily14 July 2004
It's funny that I'm reviewing this movie, because I was actually in this movie, I was only there for one day, I had SO much fun on the set, and I was REALLY myself, I was about 5 or 6 when they were shooting this movie, and I did not even know they were filming me playing around with my sister, I mean my mother introduced us to Spike Lee, I also saw Mehki Phifer and Fredro Starr at the time he's cool to work with, and I like the fact that his movies addresses issues in the black community.

Clockers is a great example of what happens in Brooklyn, it wasn't fair that Mehki's character got the blame for a murder that his brother committed. It just goes to show stereotypes these days. Overall, an excellent movie,a very long movie too.
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Good performances but ultimately unsatisfying
Brian Ellis11 February 2002
While watching this movie, I kept having the nagging feeling that I had seen this story before. Then I realized that this movie reminded me of the countless gangster movies of the 1930's. Not that the plot is exactly the same but seeing the life from the gangsta's eyes and how hard it is to break free was a theme touched on again and again in movies like "Dead End", "The Roaring Twenties", "Angels with Dirty Faces", etc... Repeating a theme is not in itself a bad thing (in fact, there are few, if any, original ideas left) but having the same type of ending is. In "Clockers", Spike Lee portrays what I felt was a realistic depiction of the grittiness and the despair in the projects (interesting to note that a lot of the action takes place in a leafy green park in sunny weather that tends to make the projects look not so bad). One problem ,though, comes when Lee throws in some camera tricks (the flashbacks and the kid's version of his crime), this distracts from the story and reminds us all, it's only a movie. But my main problem comes from the ending. In an effort to make one wonder about placing judgment, the ending comes off as hard to believe. The is just like the old gangster movies of yore, the endings just seem too unbelievable to what was shown before. And just like that you get a mediocre movie. Keith David, Delroy Lindo and Harvey Keitel give great performances but in my book, its the story that makes the lasting impression.
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