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Summer of Sam (1999)

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Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

Director:

Spike Lee

Writers:

Spike Lee, Victor Colicchio (screenplay) | 2 more credits »
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Popularity
4,475 ( 2,291)
6 nominations. See more awards »

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Cast

Cast overview, first billed only:
John Leguizamo ... Vinny
Adrien Brody ... Richie
Mira Sorvino ... Dionna
Jennifer Esposito ... Ruby
Michael Rispoli ... Joey T
Saverio Guerra ... Woodstock
Brian Tarantina ... Bobby Del Fiore
Al Palagonia Al Palagonia ... Anthony
Ken Garito ... Brian
Bebe Neuwirth ... Gloria
Patti LuPone ... Helen
Mike Starr ... Eddie
Anthony LaPaglia ... Detective Lou Petrocelli
Roger Guenveur Smith ... Detective Curt Atwater
Ben Gazzara ... Luigi
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Storyline

Spike Lee's take on the "Son of Sam" murders in New York City during the summer of 1977 centering on the residents of an Italian-American Northeast Bronx neighborhood who live in fear and distrust of one another.

Plot Summary | Plot Synopsis

Taglines:

No one is safe from son of sam See more »


Motion Picture Rating (MPAA)

Rated R for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

When Joey and Brian go to CBGB to search for Richie, there is a band playing called "L.E.S Stitches". They are an actual punk band started in the early 90's in NYC. See more »

Goofs

In one scene, we see a person wearing U.S. Army woodland pattern B.D.U. pants, which did not appear until 1981. See more »

Quotes

Dionna: I know he loves me, but, eh, I think I disappoint him.
Ruby: So, what do you want me to do? Do you want me to tell you how to fuck your husband?
See more »

Crazy Credits

The credits are in the form of newspaper headlines. See more »

Alternate Versions

After they are refused entry into Studio 54, the sex scene between Dionna (Mira Sorvino) and Vinny (John Leguizamo) included more explicit shots in the original cut. This scene was edited a bit after the MPAA threatened the film with an "NC-17" rating. See more »


Soundtracks

Don't Go Breaking My Heart
(1975)
Written by Elton John (as Ann Orson) and Bernie Taupin (as Carte Blanche)
Performed by Elton John and Kiki Dee
Courtesy of MCA Records and Polygram International Music B.V.
Under license from Universal Music Special Markets
See more »

User Reviews

intriguing disappointment
29 January 2000 | by Buddy-51See all my reviews

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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Frequently Asked Questions

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Details

Country:

USA

Language:

English | Italian

Release Date:

2 July 1999 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

The Son of Sam See more »

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Box Office

Budget:

$22,000,000 (estimated)

Opening Weekend USA:

$5,952,452, 4 July 1999

Gross USA:

$19,288,130

Cumulative Worldwide Gross:

$19,288,130
See more on IMDbPro »

Company Credits

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Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

DTS | Dolby Digital | SDDS

Color:

Color

Aspect Ratio:

1.85 : 1
See full technical specs »

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