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Summer of Sam
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Reviews & Ratings for
Summer of Sam More at IMDbPro »

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47 out of 59 people found the following review useful:

The Son of Sam story is an effective backdrop

9/10
Author: Becky-9
19 July 1999

I really enjoyed this movie. The Son of Sam killings are just a backdrop to a slice-of-life story in New York City in the summer of 1977. I believe that Spike Lee wanted to tell a story about the seventies - the excesses of sex, drugs and the desperation of the times. He chose a summer that stood out in the minds of the people who lived through it because of the record heat, the murders and the blackout. The Son of Sam killer was in one sense a strongly contrasting back drop and in another sense an extreme sign of the times. David Berkowitz was out of control and driven by invisible demons, but that could be said of the main character Vinnie. The difference between the two could almost be reduced to a matter of degree. I was struck by the part of the story where a group of friends thought the killer was one of their own because he was into punk rock and same-sex sex for money. Their misunderstanding of the killer seemed startling in light of what we know about serial killers today, but was dead on for the time. Spike Lee reminds us with this movie how much damage is done when we allow ourselves to be driven by our ignorance and fear. He makes us uncomfortable, of course, but the lesson rings so true. As far as the direction went, I thought that it was classic Spike Lee with a little taken from some other popular young directors, but if someone imitates something good and does it well, I don't complain. My favorite scene is where the punk rocker character Richie does a porno dance to The Who. The soundtrack is also pretty good, by the way. I gave the movie a 9 out of 10.

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40 out of 54 people found the following review useful:

Great movie!

10/10
Author: guyfromjerzee from United States
14 August 2004

I know I may be one of the three people to say this (Roger Ebert being another of the few), but I think "Summer of Sam" is a great movie! First off, I'm a Spike Lee fan and I do feel that this is one of his best films. I think the problem most people had with the movie was that it wasn't the standard serial killer thriller they were expecting. If that's what you're expecting, you will be disappointed. Instead, "S.O.S." is a character study that focuses on the paranoia that spread amongst New Yorkers in the summer of the late seventies, when everyone was suspecting one another of being the Son of Sam. It was like a modern-day version of the Salem Witch Hunt. If you were as much as an eccentric, you were a suspect (like in the case of Adrien Brody's character in this movie). I like movies that focus on characters, and take time to develop them to a point where a feel a deep connection to each of them. Spike is one of those directors who favors character development over plot devices, and I think that's what makes most of his films work. The characters and dialogue are written in a very realistic fashion. It helps that Spike cast mostly authentic New York actors (i.e.: Adrien Brody, Jennifer Esposito, Mike Starr, Michael Rispoli). First of all, they don't have to fake their accents. Secondly, New Yorkers just have a certain vibe that cannot be fabricated. It also helps that the actors all have a great chemistry with one another. The cast is excellent all-around, with not one bad apple in the bunch. I think John Leguizamo gives the best performance of his career. For a comedic actor, he can surely pull off a straight role with flying colors. Part of the reason why is because he doesn't try too hard to play the drama, and when there's a scene that gives him a comic opportunity, he takes advantage. It's nice to see that Brody became famous, after winning an Oscar for "The Pianist" (as a side note, he's the youngest ever actor to win a Best Actor Oscar). If you're anxious to check out one of his good earlier performances, he does a superb job in this movie. Some people have criticized the use of F-bombs throughout the film--and yes, there are many. If you're easily offended by bad language, this will be like sitting through a death camp. But I didn't feel the language was in any way gratuitous. We're dealing with working-class Italian-Americans from the Bronx, who are involved in things like drugs and prostitution! Obviously, they're not going to be saying things like "gosh darn it!" This is not like "South Park" where there's just profanity for the sake of profanity. It adds to the film's realism. Finally, I loved the film's lighting style. Some of the shots are rough and grainy, but it helps intensify the gritty tone of the film. If you're one of those people who likes slow-moving character studies with great acting, you might share my feelings about "Summer of Sam." Obviously, if you're part of the summer blockbuster crowd who favors explosions and gross-out gags, this will put you to sleep. The movie runs at approximately 2 hours and 20 minutes, yet I never once felt bored. I'm not one of those people with a minute attention span, but any movie that can sustain my interest for 2 hours and 20 minutes deserves much acclaim. I have nothing wrong with long movies, as long as they're not overlong. After all, bad movies are never too short and good movies are never too long. When a movie is this great, you don't want it to end abruptly; you want it to keep going. (10 out of 10)

P.S.: The seventies soundtrack is magnificent!

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30 out of 42 people found the following review useful:

A Flashy Departure For Spike Lee...

8/10
Author: Donald J. Lamb from Philadelphia, PA
29 December 1999

Spike Lee goes berserk with SUMMER OF SAM, a twisted revisiting of the Son of Sam killings, New York, 1977. Lee steps away from his usual message pictures depicting the differences between blacks and whites and plunges us into the small Italian neighborhood within the largest city in the United States that serial killer David Berkowitz terrorized for months. The "Son of Sam" himself (played by Michael Badalucco) is placed in the back seat and Lee presents a community and an era for that matter in complete chaos.

SUMMER OF SAM has its good points and its bad points. We get to know this locale very well whether we like it or not. The characters who populate the neighborhood are funny, sad, and stupid all at the same time. You get a feel for the smells and the language of that time in that place. 1977 was the year of Disco's peak, the uprising of British punk rock (represented well by the Adrien Brody character "Ritchie"), and the Yankees were on top of the baseball world. These characters are truly nuts in their vigilante approach to finding the killer. Hell, Reggie Jackson (#44) may be the .44 caliber killer.

Aside from seeing into a sometimes gripping and stupefying world of violence and flash, the film does go overboard many times. Lee continuously rams the sex aspect of the period into our minds and Berkowitz is not seen or known enough. I did not expect a Berkowitz bio at all, however a more focused look at the killer would have proved more effective. The relationship between "Vinny" and "Dionna" (John Leguizamo and Mira Sirvino) is well-done, but over-told. True, "Vinny" is the movie's central character, but he has barely a redeeming quality and is a hard-headed product of his environment.

The cinematography and overall sound of SUMMER OF SAM is awesome. It looks grimy when it should and the use of The Who on the soundtrack is emotionally rousing, especially during the inevitable climax. I liked the picture mostly for cinematic reasons than for historical or emotional ones. The fictional neighborhood pieces are not as good as the small glimpses of Berkowitz, who does indeed chat with dogs. It did remind me in many ways of Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING, but this film has a larger canvas to paint. It works despite the shortcomings.

RATING: ***

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25 out of 33 people found the following review useful:

Just one story about the summer of 1977 in New York.

8/10
Author: John Taylor (jdtaylor@btinternet.com) from Bedfordshire, England
20 May 2002

The Summer Of Sam is the story of just one group of people and what they went through during the Summer of 1977 in New York during the "Son of Sam murders". If you are expecting a film the is solely about the David Berkowitz and the son of sam murders you will be dissapointed because while this does tell that story all the way through the film it is more about a just one set of people and how it affected them. The acting is very good especially from John Leguizano (vinny) and the gorgious Mira Sorvino (Dionna) and although sometimes the film drags a little they make this fresh and worthwile sticking through the 137 minutes. The soundtrack is fantastic as is the direction from Spike Lee and it is nice to see him doing a subject that is different from his usual African American topics. A good movie . 8 out of 10.

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26 out of 37 people found the following review useful:

Sam-Enchanted Evenings

Author: Graham Barnfield (graham@unacode.demon.co.uk) from London
16 January 2000

Summer of Sam was berated on its US release by New Yorkers and relatives of the victims of serial killer David Berkowitz alike. In the summer of 1977, paranoia eclipsed disco fever as the so-called .44 Killer murdered six and injured seven, all while keeping in contact with columnist Jimmy Breslin (whose comments bookend this movie). Not the kind of events to revisit in these days of the easily offended, and seeing Lee's claustrophobic take on Berkowitz in his deranged apartment is almost enough deter you from visiting the Big Apple.

The focus of the movie is an insular community of Italian-Americans. Mistrust rules the roost: the only thing close-knit about them is an occasional cheesy tank-top. Fear and conformity underpin the set-pieces upon which Lee thrives, from cops meeting a Mafia chief (Ben Gazarra) to a half-hearted Studio 54-style orgy. John Leguizamo thrives when passing himself off as John Travolta, but his marriage is a hollow sham. His quest for redemption hinges on saving punk friend Ritchie (Adrien Brody) from both himself and the lynchmob they grew up with.

Summer of Sam has invited comparisons with Do the Right Thing, on account of its portrayal of the simmering tensions building up to horrendous violence. Yet the lifestyles on show throughout make it closer to Scorsese's Mean Streets, albeit balanced by several strong female leads, notably Mira Sorvino. At 142 minutes it has stretched the attention span of some viewers and reviewers, but as the closing credits roll Lee has got us to care about the characters as each boils over. Ditching the irksome music video/sitcom visuals - even at a Late-term Abortions gig, with Ritchie on guitar - this is Spike Lee's most mature joint to date.

Graham Barnfield

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17 out of 24 people found the following review useful:

You can almost feel the heat and dirt on your clothes as if you were right there in hot New York City

8/10
Author: Flagrant-Baronessa from Sweden
3 August 2006

With films like 'Inside Man' and the upcoming 'Selling Time', it appears as though Spike Lee is departing from his gritty streetwise films on racial prejudice, and into the pleasant commercial world of Hollywood. He stills touches upon the odd racial issue today, as is his trademark, but they seem more like mandatory inclusions than anything else, being left unexplored and unimportant. This is not saying Summer of Sam is a lecture on racism or anything (in fact, it steers away from the topic), but it fits the gritty crime-infested streets style that Lee used to do so well.

Summer of Sam brutally zooms in on an Italian-American South Bronx neighbourhood in the summer of 1977 -- the hottest summer ever, a real killer. Lee does not shy away from sex, drugs, raunchy dialogue or violence in his portrayal of the events which are based on reality of the summer nights when Sam murdered women on the streets. As the Bronx inhabitants grow anxious and suspicious of the murders, Summer of Sam focuses its story on Vinny (John Lequizamo), his marriage with Dionna (Mira Sorvino) and his friends and we see how the killings affect their lives, while plating the "Son of Sam" himself in the backseat to make room for these dynamic characters.

I can admit that there is no strong point or focus in this film, but I don't think it's entirely necessary. It's a portrayal, and a realistic one at that -- it is also a portrayal of an era, the 1970s and this is most apparent in the flashy 54-styled nightclubs that Vinny and Dionna go to. It occasionally drags on, but this is good because it emphasizes the terrible heat and anxiousness of the city, making it almost nightmarish. It is so realistic that you can almost feel the heat and dirt on your clothes as if you were right there in steaming hot New York City. I therefore feel that a great deal of praise is due to a film that succeeds in being haunting without actually dealing with the murders head-on.

8/10

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13 out of 20 people found the following review useful:

It's a shame...

10/10
Author: David Kerr (kerrd@hotmail.com) from Regina
2 January 2000

It's a shame this movie came out when it did, during a time when it was as politically incorrect as it could get to have violence in a movie (think post-Colorado shootings). If this movie were released a year sooner or later it wouldn't have been as ignored and hated as it is. This is really a good movie, if you aren't expecting a crime-thriller, but an interesting look at the summer of 77 in New York. The use of music is outstanding in this movie, the atmosphere is incredible, the editing is flawless, and it makes my top ten of 99. Not for the faint of heart (ie. conservatives who go insane when they see sex or violence on the screen). There is nothing 'a priori' wrong with having sex or violence in a movie. If you don't like that kind of stuff, what the #$%$ did you see this movie for?

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28 out of 51 people found the following review useful:

intriguing disappointment

Author: Roland E. Zwick (magneteach@aol.com) from United States
29 January 2000

Spike Lee's "Summer of Sam," like most of his films, emerges as an intriguing but, nevertheless, regrettable failure. Using as his background the long, hot summer of 1977, when the serial killer known as the Son of Sam held New York City in the grip of terror, Lee spins a tale of drug abuse, infidelity and violence among a group of Italians living in a Bronx neighborhood. Unfortunately, Lee's meandering take on the subject robs it of much of its potential drama as he searches for a focal point that will make it compelling to the audience. He only occasionally succeeds and that is when he concentrates on the two lead characters: Vinny, whose deep religious convictions and sincere devotion to his wife cannot compel him to resist his womanizing compulsions, and Dionna, his beautiful but longsuffering wife, who suspects his infidelities and desperately struggles to satisfy Vinny's strong sexual needs but who runs up against the roadblock of her husband's strange misapprehension about what exactly constitutes the extent of marital relations. Vinny, in particular, as he struggles against the demons that plague him and the guilt they impose on him, suggests a complexity of character that makes him a compelling center for this otherwise sprawling story.

Unfortunately, many of the subsidiary characters, who surround these two and keep pulling us away from them, emerge as little more than ethnic and sexual stereotypes, from the neighborhood mob boss (Ben Gazarra) to the loving-father drug dealer to the punk rock iconoclast to the local flaming "fairy." Not even strong performances by a game cast can infuse these roles with the depth and humanity necessary to justify their inclusion in the film.

Stylistically, this film is much less visually flashy than previous Lee works with less elaborate camerawork and only the occasional near-subliminal quick cuts (used to convey memories) to distract us. Lee should, also, have avoided at all costs the temptation to cast himself as an on-site news reporter. Even more egregiously, why oh why did Lee feel compelled to visualize literally (through animatronics) the demon dog that Berkowitz reportedly cited as the motivation for his crimes actually barking out instructions to the crazed psychopath?

The risk in these docudramas is that the moviemakers will not be able to match, in their narrative, the compelling nature of the actual events upon which they are based. Lee's film is no exception, for just as the killer is captured, the fictional side of the story resolves itself in a flurry of heavy handed "Ox Bow Incident" melodramatics, scarcely credible even for a cadre of characters as lacking in common sense as these are. "Summer of Sam" is notable for the performances of John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino in the central roles, its disco-drenched soundtrack and its letter-perfect recreation of a particular moment in recent American history. What a shame, then, that the film never really coheres into a satisfying whole.

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8 out of 12 people found the following review useful:

No Longer A Subjective Opinion: New York Is The Greatest City In The World!

10/10
Author: dataconflossmoor-1 from United States
18 November 2011

Originally, the term, Chauvinist, derived from the articulate Frenchman, Chauvin, who thought French culture was unquestionably superior to virtually all other cultures in the world. Today,the term, Chauvinist, is construed as something pejorative with regards to eschewing feminism, aka the "Male Chauvinist Pig". When implementing Chauvinism by its real definition,New York is the number one city (Dallas being a distant second) that would be classified as the most Chauvanistic city in the world! This adamant belief, which is garnered by many New Yorkers, (Including the people in this movie) evokes a quintessential candor with everyone about how New York is the only real city in the world. Snobbery amongst New Yorkers is not about country club elitism, rather, it deals with a cosmopolitan superiority which pertains to the actual concept of a city, and, its aggregate potential that purports how intensely urban a city like New York, and only New York, can actually be! Ironically enough, the New Yorker's bravado is predicated on how New York City is one big citadel for imperfection, and intransigent life lessons. There is just something acutely enlightening, and genuinely humorous about meeting an individual who truly believes that he is the best at something. New Yorkers of this ilk have the exuberance, not to mention, the b**ls (time to insert a euphemism) to cogently believe that they are, indeed, the greatest city in the world. What does this long dissertation have to do with the movie "Summer of Sam"? Only this, all of the characters in this movie were New Yorkers who all possess this Promethian New York City attitude.This movie deals with a lot of Italian Americans living in New York. I am Italian in descent, and, I have noticed that New York Italians differentiate themselves from all other Italian Americans in that they are for more ingrained with the old world Italian ideals. The film, "Moonstruck" established such a theory as their foundation for their movie's dynamic. Focusing now on the movie "Summer of Sam", the whole plot was very high strung. The reaffirmation of the "Saturday Night Fever" mentality gave the movie audience a crystal clear concept of the prevailing mindset for all the significant characters in this film. Set in New York, back in 1977, Elvis passed away,"Studio 54" became a nightclub sensation, Jimmy Carter was President, disco was king, gas was rationed, inflation was double digits, and that summer in New York City, in 1977, was one of the most hot and sweltering summers in the city's history. These young men were not just hot from the oppressive summer days, but also, from "really liking" Farah Fawcett Majors. While culture clashes disseminated an old stand-by motley crew of lost souls from the Bronx, the "Son of Sam" was at large to terrorize everyone just totally sh**less(time to insert another euphemism). The violence, the agitation,and the paradoxical love/hate relationship with New York City, all were executed flawlessly with this film! I found it interesting how someone would not slug you if you bumped into him and uttered profanity at him, but, he would deck you for being a Red Sox fan... Only the Yankees... Remember! The movie "Summer of Sam" covered the phenomenal event whereby Reggie Jackson hit three home runs in one game to win the 1977 World Series for the New York Yankees. This is painstakingly ironic that I just saw this movie, as I recently witnessed the World Series this year, 2011, in which, Albert Puljous hit three home runs in one World Series game against Texas. Only three players in the history of baseball have accomplished something so paramount: Babe Ruth, Reggie Jackson, (As this movie points out) and, the 2011 World Series, Albert Puljous (For the champion St Louis Cardinals). Baseball in New York City has perennially been an identifiably pandemic obsession for New Yorkers to thrive on! Spike Lee directs this film, and, he is a wealth of talent (Including his performance in "Do The Right Thing"). The acting in this movie has a sensational authenticity to it.John Leguizamo was particularly convincing with his role in this movie, as the John Travolta incarnate case. Adrien Brody displayed an effective innocence as the emerging spawn of Punk Rock pop culture. Finally, the strong performance by Bebe Neuwirth(Formerly "Lilith" of "Cheers") was very impressive! The use of cuss words in this film, overwhelms you, as the "F" word is used 324 times! Invariably, if a film is truly a good one, more often than not, it sensitizes you with some sort of indelible concept.. In my case, the New York Chauvanism, as depicted with such a fervent intensity in the movie "Summer of Sam", was emphatically and indisputably, the concept which achieved such a feat. It is realistically indicative of our honestly innate human nature to be intrigued with someone who is convinced that his city is undeniably, the overall, number one, best city in the entire world, period! Americans still love a winner, in that case, they should love this movie! Without a doubt; "There are eight million stories in the naked city,and this (Wonderfully creative masterpiece of a movie) was one of them!"

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11 out of 18 people found the following review useful:

Summer of Spam

1/10
Author: anonymous
21 July 1999

The film is a collection of cliche's on just about anything out there. It has no focus whatsoever, no goals, no real message. Symbolism is pushed over the top and stereotyping is abundant and outrageous. This movie can't resist the temptation of making drama where non exists. Every small exchange of words turns immediately into a lengthy, unjustified dialog that is so typical of an acting class rehearsal. Where there is no substance to this exchange, the actors (regardless of how good they are normally) can't help but compensate with exaggerated emotion, aka "raising the stakes". Over acting, to put it simply. The directing is of no help here. Nothing can save this non-story. It is forced, faked and boring to tears. Inaccuracies in portaraying punk rock with The Who, piercings and flashy 90's outfits. Characters wander without a role, detail and motive. Locations are arbitrary. This is Boogie Nights cum The Good Fellas cum Saturday Night Fever, with meaning and art ripped out.

Good DP. I'll give it that.

Some films have flaws. This film is Lee's flaw. He sold out, like the rest of them. Became irrelevant. He has nothing of interest to say anymore.

I have no desire to see anything again from this guy (whom I'll refrain from naming from now on).

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