Mo' Better Blues (1990) Poster

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Surprised how much I liked it
Andy Woodward15 January 1999
When this was on TV the other night, I expected to stick out about two minutes of it. Being a follower of Tarantino, all I'd heard recently of Spike Lee was wholly negative. In addition, I know nothing of black culture and/or jazz. Imagine my surprise then when, two hours later, I found myself entirely intoxicated by the blend of atmosphere, empathy, humour and pure depth of character and relationship in this exceptional movie. Next up, I'm watching all his other movies... Quentin, make your peace!
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Spike's cool, modern poem to jazz
JawsOfJosh3 November 2000
After the commercial and critical success of "Do The Right Thing," in which Lee announced his arrival as a major player, he choose to follow up his breakthrough with a more personal film. If you examine history, it seems all iconoclasts choose to do so after their first big success ("The Conversation," "Close Encounters Of The Third Kind," "Talk Radio"), and Lee decided to pay homage to what he's always referred to simply as "the music." Set in then-present day 1990, "Mo' Better Blues" tells the tale of Denzel Washington as Bleek Gilliam, a selfish trumpeter who fronts his own jazz quintet in an upscale Brooklyn club. The strength of the film deals with Bleek juggling his loyalties. On the love side, Bleek is caught between two women; Clarke is a sexy bombshell in constant need of Bleek's attention who's too busy centering in on his music. She's also an aspiring singer hoping Bleek will give her a chance to shine. Bleek, obviously, does not want to share the spotlight. Indigo is a thoughtful schoolteacher who is not fragile with Bleek's tremendous ego but is careful with his somewhat callous heart. At work, Bleek is wrestling with a hungry band demanding pay raises given the success they're achieving at the "Beneath The Underdog" club. Clumsily working towards the band's raise is Giant, Bleek's lifelong friend and incompetent manager, who also has a considerable gambling problem. Bleek must decide whether to trust Giant or risk losing his band, while deciding how long he can keep up the game between Indigo and Clarke.

This, simply, is one of my favorite Lee films. Thank God someone finally made a jazz film for the late 20th century, jazz had not received a proper modern makeover since 1961's "Paris Blues." Lee creates a wonderful, intimate world set off by moody lighting in shades of red, yellow and blue. His camera and editing - which was spontaneous and lively in "Do The Right Thing" - is slow and deliberate here, carefully punctuated in all the right places. This film marked the debut of some of Lee's trademark camera moves, including the 'gliding sidewalk' dolly and his slow-spin-upward pans.

Like his previous films, Lee is adept and balancing out scenes between comedy and drama. A lot of the 'band' scenes are engagingly funny, mostly guy talk with a spin of that "cool daddy jazz vibe" added. Lee is also skillful at making Bleek the antagonist of the film without rendering him completely unlikable. The "Love Supreme" montage ending seemed to stretch the film for longer than some would have liked, but I feel it was justified in order to illustrate the beauty and necessity of Bleek's redemption. Lee was also smart to reduce screen time given to the film's true protagonist, saxophonist Shadow Henderson (rendered with cool, suave sophistication by Wesley Snipes), in order to keep the audience focused on Bleek. You will also get a delicious sampling of great jazz in this film if you're a novice to such. Aside from the concert numbers written and performed by Branford Marsalis and the dreamy jazz score by Lee's father, Bill, there are great pieces by John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Dizzy Gillespie, among others. A cool, sexy film.
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Classic Insight Into The NYC Jazz World
youngman4412 December 2006
This is a very entertaining movie and it is underrated. The characters, story and music are captivating.

However, I think part of the reason for the lower ratings is the the poor camera effects. Lee focuses in on characters at times, as though they are standing and talking to a camera by themselves in some sterile room, such that it actually cheapens the film. There is a real lack of realism to this technique - it reminds me of 1960's style TV shows like Batman. It gives a feel that they ran out of money and when they had to go back and re-shoot the scene, they did so on the cheap. A minority may find this unique or appealing, but no great movie or director will use this technique. The filming with multiple characters in the shot is generally very good. But, the movie could have been better without these flaws.

The writing at times is exceptional. There are great lines, as well as very entertaining dialogue. The scenes between Denzel and Snipes are exude an extraordinary power and they offer an exceptional dynamic to the movie as a whole. The female characters are also very compelling. "Clark" (Cynda Williams) is extraordinarily attractive and the movement of the character through the course of the movie is well done.

It is difficult not to be captivated by this film. The positive cultural dynamic it captures is one that Americans can only hope to be present. Yet, one gets the feeling that reality is closer to the darker elements the movie exposes. Yet, there is ultimately a very positive message of love, responsibility.
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Spike Lee, ya got this one right!
Rhythm-24 December 1998
One of Spike Lee's best, "Mo Better Blues" captures the atmosphere of jazz. The soundtrack flows with the acting like a song. Denzel Washington does a great job of portraying a jazzman's quest for perfection, while living in a "real world" full of problems. Being a musician myself, I appreciated the struggle Washington's character was going through. All of Spike Lee's trademark camera angles (which I've disliked in some of his movies) worked to perfection in this movie. Great music, good acting, and a solid plot. Recommend!
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Jazzy Spike Lee and Moody character study ...
ElMaruecan828 August 2013
Warning: Spoilers
"Mo' Better Blues" is Spike Lee's immediate follower of the unanimously acclaimed "Do the Right Thing". And if not 'Mo' Better' than the glorious predecessor, Lee still 'did the right thing' by tackling a less political subject and pay a beautiful tribute to jazz music through one of the most under-appreciated performances of the 90's: Denzel Washington as Bleek Gilliam, the trumpet player.

"Do the Right Thing" also coincided with the year Washington won his first Oscar for his performance as the tormented Afro-American soldier questioning the value of his engagement with the Yankees. As Bleek, Washington not only shows a more light-hearted facet of his acting range, but also proves a unique ability to portray men driven by anger, selfishness but with enough pride and confidence to win our respect. His characters might be flawed but we understand them and the emotional pay-off is that they ultimately try to change, for the best, closing some fascinating characters' arcs, among which Bleek isn't an exception.

Bleek is interesting because he crystallizes the curse of making constantly bad choices, and by 'bad' I mean 'tragic', even more because only the scope of a life highlight them. And "Mo' Better Blues" spans thirty years of Bleek's life so we have glimpses on the devastating effects of the most benign choices. It opens in 1969 when Bleek's friends urge him to come play softball, but it is trumpet which he must play, under his mother's tyrannic supervision. His father coerces her to let the boy be a boy, but he's too busy watching TV to be listened to. The kids finally leave, calling Bleek a 'sissy', Bleek resumes playing with much reluctance.

The immediate ellipse endorses the mother's authoritarian education; Bleek became a handsome trumpet player with a way with women, leader of a quintet featuring Shadow Henderson (Wesley Snipes) the saxophone player, Bill Nunn in the bass and Giancarlo Esposito in the piano. What a great delight to watch all these actors joined interacting in the artist's room. The list would be incomplete without Spike Lee who plays Giant, an ironic name for the vertically challenged manager of the band. Anyway, life seems to smile to Bleek, but all the film's stylish shots can't hide behind the shadowy and smoothly designed atmosphere, the presages of an imminent downfall.

"Mo' Better Blues" chronicles a series of bad choices made by a man not by lack of luck or intelligence, but because his ego and certitudes prevent him from realizing the harm he causes to his entourage, and ultimately, to himself. Bleek is too blinded by his leadership to understand that it might not last, especially with such a promising sax player, who proves his value every night through outstanding solos. He's too caught up by his friendship with Giant he lets him ruin the band's career. Giant is a gambler who makes the wrong bets, who fails to convince the club owners Moe and Josh Flatbush (John and Nicholas Turturro) to renegotiate the contract, and much more, who gets no respect because of his diminutive size. Not stupid or unlucky, but Bleek's tragedy is that his best friend is. Spike Lee perfectly plays Giant, the lovable loser.

But Bleek is also the architect of his own demise, notably on the love department. He dates two women who couldn't have been more opposite: Cynda Williams as Clarke Bettencourt, a glamorous, light-skinned artist whose dream is to be Bleek's Muse and sing for him but she can't break the iced gate of his own ego forcing Bleek to turn the subject into a "Mo'Better" moment, a classy euphemism for sex. But it is interrupted when she accidentally bites Bleek's very tool of work: his lip, confirming the impossible junction of work and passion. But Clarke's pleas find echoes in Shadow and her character magnificently blooms when she sings a sweet ballad for Shadow's quartet (guess who misses?) and proves Bleek wrong. But his heart belongs to Indigo (Joie Lee), the less glamorous but more dedicated woman who patiently endures his rejections.

We know they're meant for each other, but Bleek is still obsessed with Clarke's body, the highest in the hierarchy of beauty standards in the black community. Realistically, it's only when Bleek's career is over that he seeks Indigo's help, and she knows. Paying the highest price of being Giant's friend, his lip is permanently hurt by two loan sharks. By the way, the film tactfully avoids the ridiculous triumphant comeback cliché invited to join the band by Shadow, Bleek can't play correctly and leaves the stage … forever, the heart full of pain and humiliation. All he's got left is Indigo, and she only accepts after he begs her to ''save his life', which means that he finally triumphed over his own ego.

Part choice, part luck, the film subtly parallels life with jazz music, which is one third- dedication, one third-inspiration and one-third improvisation, Bleek was too dedicated to himself to see how listening to the others could help him. I could relate to Bleek for I had my share of bad choices, for I'm still trusting my best friend to whom I owe many of the biggest problems I have (and he's still a friend) for even with my future wife, I kept lusting about other more voluptuous women, while I still know that she was the one. I remember an old man who hardly knew me but said "there's something erroneous" about me. Now, I knew what he meant and this is something I can also say about Bleek, hoping that, like him, my life will change positively.

And the ending says it all when the exact opening scene is recreated, only this time, Bleek lets his son go play with his friend, probably realizing that one simple choice can have one hell of an effect on one's life, and not repeating the same mistakes is already a way to succeed.
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Interesting interpretation of life and love...
lesyle11 July 2003
I really enjoyed this film. Everyone has a Bleek in his life: someone whose love of his life is all he knows, wants to know, etc. However, we always lose the love of our life for various reasons. Then, what do you do when the love of your life is suddenly taken from you? That is this film's theme. Bleek's only love was jazz music. Bleek's music was the only thing that mattered to him. Music overrode everything: an incompetent manager (who was his best friend), his lovers, and the contentment of his bandmates (the money issue which is related to having an incompetent manager). When Bleek lost the love of his life (watch the film to learn why), he was forced to make some hard choices about his life and face some unpleasant truths (something we've all had to do).

I enjoyed the score and the jazz pieces included in this film (after all, Bleek played the trumpet). I really liked the cinematography in this film because the film showed the beauty of New York City - the brownstones, the Manhattan skyline (a brief glimpse), the Brooklyn Bridge, etc.
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all dressed up with nowhere to go
Michael Neumann8 December 2010
Spike Lee's latest 'joint' is a jazz variation of 'She's Gotta Have It', with the genders reversed: maladjusted trumpeter Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington) juggles two lovers while indulging an almost neurotic addiction to his music. His compulsive behavior is, presumably, a consequence of strict childhood practice habits, but if all work and no play have made Bleek a dull boy, the same can't be said of the film itself: Lee's self-conscious homage to music and fatherhood suffers from a dizzy overabundance of distracting, Scorsese-influenced 'style'. The film has been criticized for its stereotypical supporting roles, but the primary characters are likewise only skin deep. Except for some early childhood Freudian motivation, Bleek remains more or less a cipher, and his contrived, fantasy redemption (after a series of false endings, each one more lame than the last) seems tacked on only to provide a neat, symmetrical resolution.
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Great film
davisdontaye17 October 2006
One of the best film's Spike Lee has ever created. Denzel Washington plays Bleek Gilliam, a selfish musician who only listens to his music. He cheats on his women and wants the spotlight only to himself. On his road to redemption he encounters betrayal, lies, and greed before he finds happiness. A happiness that comes at a heavy price. Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes give superb performances in their roles. The supporting cast members also give terrific performances in this film. The supporting cast members include Giancarlo Esposito, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nunn and Spike Lee. Spike Lee gives these characters enough personality to keep this movie entertaining. Each member adds enough color commentary to the film making this a joyous event from beginning to end. Add this movie to your video collection if you haven't already.
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Brilliant character study and portrayal of American Jazz
Glendon Gross3 March 2007
Warning: Spoilers
I was surprised how much I responded to this movie. I have worked as a jazz trumpet player, and I thought Spike Lee's presentation of the darker side of jazz was brilliant. I myself have had to address many of the problems faced by Denzel Washington's character in this movie, and I think it should be required viewing for aspiring jazz musicians. Why? Not because of the entertainment value, but because of the Truth value (with a capital "T".) Jazz Musicians are artists at the heart, and any good jazz musician has to deal with the necessary tension between the somewhat egotistical act of creating one's art, and the cold realities and consequences of sharing it with an audience. Denzel Washington did a good job of portraying the conflict between his character's narcissism and his relationships. Admittedly selfish, his character is eventually transformed in a powerful and realistic way. Reminiscent of William Blake's Songs of Innocence and Songs of Experience, Spike Lee has contributed to the popular lore and also to human understanding with this work. (And he also is a good actor!) To me the unique camera angles and choice of sets served to amplify the message of this movie, which transcends race. While I would have preferred a different ending, and I hated to watch the violence, I am forced to acknowledge the realism in the way this movie ends in a positive way. I believe I am a better person for having watched this movie.
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Very Good, But Not On Par With Other Spike Work
jzappa26 October 2006
In Spike Lee's fourth film, Denzel Washington proves early in his career that he is capable of being funny and romantic in a more modest film than Glory or Cry Freedom, the music is breezy and romantic and consistent, jazzy and colorful cinematography, and another characteristic Spike Lee touch, which is his gift for drawing from his actors stunningly realistic performances. In some ensemble scenes, the dialogue seems like improvisation. Maybe it is.

Mo' Better Blues is a good, steady, effective drama, a portrait of a complex and overwrought musician and the indecision and jealousy that gradually eat away at his life, but it lacks the passion and brazen provocative nature of nearly all of Spike Lee's other films.

The cast, once again, is brilliant. Denzel is very very very authentic, faithful, graphic, and lifelike. My brother is a jazz musician and I've met several of his fellow musicians. I'm seasoned when it comes to jazz musicians. Take my word for it, Denzel's performance is entirely true. Snipes is brilliantly, swaggeringly audacious. Joie Lee comprehensively draws our sympathy towards her sensitive, self-conscious character and away from the elegant and subtly compelling Cynda Williams. Spike Lee himself is one of the most compelling characters. Samuel L. Jackson entertains in one of his millions and billions of early bit roles.

If I were to say, "I'm in the mood for a Spike Lee joint," this would not be one of the first films I pick, but it's different and enthralling. I mean, it's directed by Spike Lee, so how can it not be?
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Not Spike's best, but still a great movie
Wazoo26 April 2000
Spike Lee is, in my opinion, one of the most exciting young filmmakers to emerge in the last 20 years. While "Mo' Better Blues" is not as wonderful as "Do the Right Thing" or "Malcolm X," it still deserves considerable recognition as one of his more solid efforts. The story is a bit uneven, but the acting and the music more than make up for it.

Denzel Washington plays Bleek Gilliam, a NYC trumpet player who fronts his own jazz quintet to sell-out crowds at a local club. He's managed by Giant (played by Lee), an irresponsible compulsive gambler who is only Bleek's manager because they're childhood friends. Meanwhile, Bleek is seeing two different women (played by Joie Lee [Spike's real-life sister] and Cynda Williams), and is torn between his passion for music and his inability to control his relationships.

Things go haywire when Bleek's sax player, Shadow (Wesley Snipes), vies for the affections of one of Bleek's women, promising her fortune and fame as a jazz singer since Bleek only cares about himself anyway.

Giant's gambling problems, Bleek's convictions as a "serious" musician, and the tightrope one walks between love and professional dedication are themes all visited in this exciting, vibrant film.

Besides the wonderful performances (by Washington, Snipes, and the always-underrated Lee standby Giancarlo Esposito, among others), Ernest Dicekrson's cinematography is stunning, and the music -- performed in real life by Branford Marsalis, who has a cameo in the film -- is dazzling. The way the "band" mimes the performances is thoroughlly convincing (although it must be noted that Bleek's drummer is played by Jeff "Tain" Watts, a real jazz drummer who actually performs on the tracks themselves).

If you're a jazz lover and a lover of Spike Lee's movies, check this out -- you'll be glad you did.
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The first film in the Denzel/Spike Trilogy
DunnDeeDaGreat27 November 2001
Denzel Washington and Spike Lee remind me of Bruce Campbell and Sam Raimi when it comes to actors and directors.This is the first film they worked on together and it was a success. The storyline and music are all great and Spike continues to make good movie. I give this film ***8 out of ****.
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The music was great, but otherwise this film didn't appeal to me
vchimpanzee16 June 2003
Warning: Spoilers
The film opens in 1969 with young Bleek practicing his trumpet (and showing no promise). His friends want him to come out and play, but his mother insists he practice, though his father would have let him go out.

Bleek's practice paid off. He is a talented trumpeter as an adult with a talented if only moderately successful band. The music in this movie is wonderful, and the acting quite good (Denzel Washington and Wesley Snipes probably don't know how to play their instruments as wonderfully as what we could hear, but they faked it well). As usual, Spike Lee appears in the film. In this case he is the band's manager, who has a gambling problem. I liked Dick Anthony Williams as Bleek's father, and I liked Samuel L. Jackson at first, playing one of the bad guys. I was disappointed when he left so quickly, but when he came back he was so nasty I wished he hadn't come back at all.

Other than the music, I didn't see much reason to feel entertained by this film. I'm not sure what this means, but the only two white men with lines came across as cartoon characters, in stark contrast to the well-played blacks. And there were two white women with lines, one a waitress who seemed intelligent enough based on her one or two lines, and the other a mixed-race French woman (who was supposed to be educated but didn't seem that way to me) the band members didn't seem to approve of their colleague dating. I don't mind, though, when Spike Lee addresses racism in his movies because he makes valid points.

My purpose in watching a Spike Lee movie is to be educated rather than entertained. I think this film achieved that, but not as well as some others.


Interestingly, the movie ends almost exactly the way it started, except Bleek is an adult whose son is practicing the trumpet, and this time the boy gets to go out and play with his friends. Nice touch.
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Melodrama in Dullsville. Spike's sour note.
st-shot22 March 2008
Things get dull early an often in this in this mawkish jazz bio fiction written and directed by Spike Lee.

Bleek Gilliam (Denzell Washington) is a happenin' jazz trumpeter that fronts a quintet packing them in at Below the Underdog. His problems include an incompetent manager, a stage hogging sax player and two girlfriends that he's playing musical mattress with. The real love of his life though is his trumpet and his music. The band's manager, Giant, has a dangerous gambling problem and proves to be an ineffective negotiator with greedy club owners and would be best jettisoned but Bleek remains loyal for as long as possible. It will prove to his undoing as an artist but ironically contribute to his growth as a man.

As Bleek, Denzell Washington is all wrong as the ambitious trumpeter with a babe on each arm. He's too sweet a guy to be so self centered about his art, dispensing patience and love to those close to him with a low key remoteness. He simply lacks the fire. Wesley Snipes who plays Henderson the sax player would have been far more suited for the role but even he would have to mouth the flaccid throw away scribblings of Lee's torpid dialogue. As Giant, Lee hits the trifecta with an abysmal performance to match his writing and direction. Loosely attempting to mirror the grubby but sympathetic Ratso Rizzo to Bleek's Joe Buck he adopts a limp and even the "I'm walkin' here" moment from Midnight Cowboy. In this case you wish the taxi would run him over and be done with it.

Lee's script is all tepid argument, heavy handed ribbing and veiled insult with some requisite clumsy editorializing that Lee has to inject to remain down. The scenes between the band members backstage and in rehearsal lack spark and are only surpassed in dreariness by the Bleek, Giant conversations that have an ad lib look and go in circles. Completing this travesty is Lee's pretentious visual style. Tracking shots, zooms and pans are wasted and without significance to scenes. They just wander.

Blues is Lee's love letter to jazz (made implicit by the mountains of memorabilia plastered all over the sets) and it's all sentimental clap trap that lacks passion and verve. Jazz on film is better served by Tavernier's "Round Midnight" and Eastwood's "Bird" which get below the surface, reveal more sides of the form, the pain behind it in addition to offering infinitely superior lead performances by Forrest Whitaker and the real deal Dexter Gordon. This Spike Lee Joint doesn't even offer a mild buzz. It's some pretty bad homegrown.
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Spike Lee hit a good note on this one
drtturner15 July 2002
This is a good romantic film featuring two of hollywood's biggest stars in denzel and wesley. What struck me most about this film was what it shared with the film called "Unforgiven". Without giving away too much, I was shocked that the hero here was found to clark kent leanings more than superman ones. Unsettling at first, I grew to appreciate that the protagonists small steps and minor triumphs are okay and arguably more realistic than the shafts of the world. I grew to accept the vulnerability of this spike lee character called bleak.
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My Favorite Film Tie
supremeallah76 December 1999
After just writing a comment about one of the least greatest black films (Belly) I decided to write about my favorite film. Actually Mo Better Blues is tied with Carlito's Way as my favorite film. At any rate Mr. Spike Lee expressed the story of love that everyone feels. Finding your creative spark in life, the person that adds on to your physical being, and being to able balance the both of them is the task for which this film tries to display and accomplish. It asks, if you didn't have the one thing which makes you you any more,how would you function. Bleek (Denzel Washington) was solely dependant upon his music because that was what he could outlet every strain of energy in him out on. Being an m.c. I know what it's like to have my lyrics be my way of venting out the world's hell. What complemented to his music was his love of women though. Yo, I thought Cynda Williams (Clark) was going to be my wife when I first saw this film. Anyway the black women portrayed the savior to Bleek once he could not depend on the only thing that he exclusively gave his attention to. Also on a side note this film was the first to portray a character from the Nation of Gods and Earths. Next time you watch it look for Born Knowledge. Overall this film was one of the reasons I'm in film school now. It was highly overlooked as one of the true black romantic comedies of my generation, as was Love Jones so we got to love our own before we love the other man's films. I loved this film and it is tied with Malcolm X as my favorite Spike Lee film.
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Watchable but not a classic! 4/10
leonblackwood26 November 2016
Review: I've never really been a big fan of Spike Lee's movies, mainly because I don't like his directing and writing methods, and his pro-black message was used to death but I thought that it would be good to see how far Denzel Washington has come in his career. He definitely gave this movie this all, and the instruments were played very well by the top actors but I got a bit fed up with the flow of the movie because it seemed to be going round in circles. It wasn't as pro-black and most of Spike Lee's earlier movies, thank God but it did seem extremely dated, and for a two hour movie, nothing really happened. For those of you who don't remember the plot, the film is based around a trumpet player, Bleek Gilliam (Denzel Washington), who regularly plays in a club with his band, and is managed by his best friend, Giant (Spike Lee), who is addicted to gambling and hasn't paid the band for a long time. As Bleek is the leader of the band, everyone turns to him for there wages, knowing that there manager is useless but Bleek stays loyal to his friend, whilst trying to hold a relationship with Indigo (Joie Lee) and Clarke (Cynda Williams). With the debt collectors constantly after Giant, Bleek tries to steer him in the right direction but after a heated alteration outside the club, Bleek's life is changed forever and his band decide to go it alone. That is the basis of the storyline, which did have some emotional moments but nothing memorable. Wesley Snipes (Shadow), was the same as he is in a lot of his movies and the rest of the cast were very average but Denzel stood out from the rest, and I haven't seen him show this side of his acting skills since this movie. With that aside, I still wasn't impressed with the film, in this day and age but it was good to see some top black actors together on screen, before they hit the big time. Average!

Round-Up: I'm not a total Spike Lee hater, because I did enjoy Inside Man, 25th Hour, The Original Kings Of Comedy, Summer of Sam and Clockers but the rest of his projects, really wasn't my cup of tea. Do the Right Thing was a big deal when it was released in 1989, mainly because of it's pro-black message and the great soundtrack, which went down well in the urban market but he seemed to get a bit big headed after releasing Jungle Fever, Malcolm X and Crooklyn. He also had a few scraps with fellow directors in the media, and his movies started to take less money at the box office, mainly because people was getting a bit fed up with the same theme, so after releasing Girl 6 and He Got Game, he decided to make a movie about true events called Summer Of Sam. 25th Hour was also a change of direction for Spike Lee, and he started to turn his career to TV for a while. He still was making controversial comments in the media, and after his poor attempt of a remake of Oldboy in 2013, which lost the studio $25million, he has been out of the limelight for some time. Personally, I think that he is his worse enemy, like Quentin Taratino and Mel Gibson, because they are known for the wrong reasons. They are all talented directors but there mouth seems to get them in trouble. Anyway, it's a watchable movie but not a classic.

Budget: $10million Worldwide Gross: $16million

I recommend this movie to people who are into their music/romance/dramas, starring Denzel Washington, Spike Lee, Wesley Snipes, Giancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Joie Lee, Bill Nunn, John Turturro, Cynda Williams, Nicholas Turturro, Samuel L. Jackson, Charlie Murphy and Doug E. Doug. 4/10
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capncruller25 May 2014
This was a frustrating movie for me because it was at times brilliant, yet there are a few things that could have been done better.

Spike Lee shows why he is revered as a writer director, with beautiful dynamic shots, intercut with smooth jazz. It is a charming presentation. Also the dialogue is interesting and feels natural and spontaneous. The combination of strong writing and acting makes for interesting conversations.

The things I found frustrating was the lack of a focused or interesting story. Also Spike Lee's performance was very weak compared to Denzel's and he should have stayed out of the movie. He actually took a lot of the attention from the other characters and tried to make the movie about himself.
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Cause mo better makes it mo better.
Andy (film-critic)11 February 2005
I am normally a Spike Lee fan. It takes some time to really get into his "mojo", but once you see the clear message and the ability to tell the story that is close to his heart, Lee is a genius. Unlike The 25th Hour or Bamboozled (two of my favorite films of his), there was no clear story in this film. I was able to understand the struggle between Washington and the choice to play well or be influenced by others, but for some odd reason Lee was never able to get the true feeling out. Washington did a decent job with what was handed to him, but you could tell that this was not Lee's favorite film. Not only did Lee direct this film, but he also wrote it. You could tell. The camera work was horrid and the writing only contributed to the decay of the film. This film was coming full circle and it wasn't going to be pretty. Lee was not 100% behind this film as he was with Do the Right Thing. Of all the films I have seen Lee direct, this was the brightest and more modest of his films. It was almost as if he created a Hollywood movie instead of one that was all his own. I don't know if he saw the money from Do the Right Thing and ran with it, or what … but this film did not demonstrate his true talent.

For anyone out there that has seen this film, and perhaps stopped watching anything directed by Spike Lee afterwards due to this film, I suggest you give him a second chance. Don't get me wrong, I see exactly where you are coming from with this film and why you would want to put this behind you, but Lee does grow up. His work becomes more of his own, and you can see the transformation from a desire to make money to just wanting to make good films. It took me awhile to watch The 25th Hour, but when I did, it was sheer brilliance. Perhaps it was the actors, perhaps the story, but Lee crafted an amazing film out of one man's journey into the unknown. I guess that is what I was hoping Mo' Better Blues would turn out to be. This really dark journey into the life of a man that really never grew up, but instead all I got was Denzel being Denzel. He really is one of the most versatile actors of this generation, and I do consider him the Sydney Poitier of cinema, but this was not the film to showcase his talent.

Another issue that I had with this film was the use of Spike's sister playing one of the love interests. I don't know about you, and your family, but I do not think that I could have filmed a sex scene with my sister. I don't care who the actor is or how much money I am getting paid, I would never do it. It is just something that I never wish to see, but apparently that is different for Spike. He went ahead and showed the full nude image of his sister without any remorse. It was sad and it even made me blush. Also, I need somebody to answer me this. What was Flavor Flav doing introducing this film? So, I am sitting there on my couch, ready to start the film, when suddenly there is a voice from the past spelling out the studio that made this film, then he acknowledges himself. That did not build for a strong remaining of the story. Again, I felt that Lee was going for money on this film instead of actual talent. Perhaps that is how he could afford both Denzel and Wesley in the same movie without any explosions.

There were two great scenes in this film that made it worth watching through to the end. Don't get me wrong, this was a very bad movie, but there is always a diamond in every alleyway. The scene when Bleek accidentally forgets which woman he is with was mesmerizing. He continually went back and forth, weaving truth to confusion in a way that proved that Lee was actually behind the camera. It was a visionary scene that was probably lost in the shuffle due to the remaining poor scenes. The other scene that was worth watching was the way that Lee introduced and ended the film. By keeping the same pacing and direction, he was able to bring this tragic character around full circle and give him the chance to change his life. Other than these two moments, the rest of the film was pure rubbish, not worth viewing unless you are about to go blind.

Grade: ** out of *****
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Not My Favorite Spike Lee Movie
jed-estes4 September 2006
Warning: Spoilers
As with several of Spike Lee's earlier films I just do not get them as they are not part of the lifestyle I lead. But that is not to say they are not stunningly beautiful and full of charm. This film says a lot about trumpet music and jazz, it's just not my cup of tea, I would much rather watch Lee's more racial driven films. This film marks the first of four collaborations that Spike Lee and Denzele Washington have conferred on together and it is their least effective, but every one has got to start somewhere. If they had not done this together than the camaraderie that is felt on the better films Malcolm X, He Got Game, and Inside Man, could never had been achieved. This film is basically just the building block to bridge the gap until Spike and his troupe are better prepared to take on better ideas to be put into film.

This film has a great supporting cast as do most of Lee's films. It's got Sam L. Jackson, Joie Lee, John Turrtoro, Bill Nunn, and Robin Harris among others. These people are all great actors and always leave an impression on a film even when the film is not that good. This film could have been made better if it had not relied completely on Denzel's character to drive the story, if it had been opened up and given the other actors time to prevail their characters than the film would have been helped by what they could have brought to the table. As the film is it just stays stagnate and not much happens. If you want to hear some good music watch, i would suggest a CD though, stay away if you want a solid story.
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Will this movie never end?
fragment3424 July 2003
Crikey, lads, it's worth seeing for sure, but there's no plot and very few characters to care about. Scenes drag on past their logical end, and Mr. Spikey makes his points with the subtlety of a flyin' mallet. Kinda like Purple Rain in that if you could only remove the dialogue and leave the music, you'd have you one heckuva ham sandwich. Denzel delights, as he always do. And does anyone believe that slapdash ending? Nope.
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One of the better movies i have seen this and last year
HAK8 January 1999
First of all let me see i'm a big jazz fan. Furthermore with Spike Lee as a director and a lot of good actors you have a good start for a film.

It's kind of a dramatic and comedy film. Denzell plays a terrific role as as an artist who only wants his music, and neglects his girlfriends. And after an accident loses his love of his life (music). Only then he starts to realise there is more to his life than music.......
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Great music and good acting but as in many of Lee´s films:TOO LONG!!
anton-625 December 2001
I saw this a couple of years ago and I don´t remember so much from it.But then I saw it again last month with my girlfriend I thought that it was too long.It could have been much better.The first half hour is great but the film is over 2 hours and you get bored and almost forget the story in the end.That´s a problem with some of Spike Lee´s films that they are too long but this film has great music and very good acting.I recommend "Jungle fever" for entertaining and "Do the right thing" as a masterpiece.2/5
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Real top notch filmwork by Spike Lee.
Bueller127 March 2000
I have seen many films that have been written by,directed by and starred Spike Lee as well as his sister Joie. This is one of his finer accomplishments. Especially since Denzel Washington's character was able to nail down the role absolutely perfectly. This film was better than Spike Lee's other films since race doesn't play quite as big a factor in this film as it does in some of the other films he has produced.
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A fun, jazzy and delirious.
OllieZ21 May 2007
I am shocked this film has such a low IMDb score! I watched both this and Crooklyn the past few days, and this is the better film.

It has all the flaws of Lee's films - tonally all over the place and a tad overlong.

But that's why I love Lee. He is always interesting. I love Inside Man, a more conventional film for Lee, but Mo' Better Blues is far more personal. This is quite clearly a work of love for the director. The cinematography is stunning. The fast dolly shots are similar to that of Scorsese and Hitchcock. The colour is wonderful too, full of rich blues and reds on the New York skyline.

The story is pretty good too, though you will have seen it all before. The tale of a jazz musician and his band, through their highs and lows: in terms of live and music. The acting is all round great, headed by Denzel Washington as Bleek, the artist who loves the music more than his friends. Wesley Snipes is Shadow Henderson. This is back when Snipes didn't have to phone in a performance in a silly action film. Lee himself, and Joie Lee also give fine support.

Let's not forget the music, which is what the film revolves around anyway. If you don't like jazz, I guess this film isn't for you. I myself liked it, it had me tapping my feet all the through.

The film is a little long and can sometimes lose its way, but this is a very enjoyable film, a solid effort from Spike Lee.
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