Saturday, August 8, 2009
Day 198: Summer of Sam (1999) - Rank 2/5
I have to hand it to Spike Lee - this is the first time when style over substance in a film has turned me off. And this is coming from somebody who owns a copy of "Toys" on DVD (if you just heard a sound, that was you clicking away from this page after that admission). I think my tolerance for the kinetic musical sequences was shoved aside by a plot that was as sluggish as its New Yorkers suffering in the heat wave of 1977, and as schitzophrenic as Sammy David Berkowitz.
To try and sum up the plot is rather hard to do, because it's all over the place, but I'll try. Italiano Vinny (John Leguizamo) sees a pair of bodies at a crime scene that were the victims of the Son of Sam. This moment sparks a mild obsession with the killer, as well as an overwhelming fear of him, while also sparking a desire to dismiss his love affairs and remain loyal to his wife. Meanwhile, his old mate Richie has returned from London and soon becomes the target of aggression and paranoia of the neighborhood, for he comes back sporting the look and attitude of a Sex Pistols-era punk. There's also a pair of policemen asking the mob for favors with the Son of Sam as well as recreations of the crime scenes.
Actually, upon reflection, I can sum it up rather quickly - the basic premise is Fritz Lang's "M" but rather than a pedophile in Germany, we have a serial killer in New York. Ugh...I've never been a huge fan of Adrien Brody, but his role in the film certainly pushes me towards the "dislike" end of the spectrum. His British accent, though a joke within the film, is intolerable and he only drops it to drop his pants at his regular performances at a local strip club. Even Spike Lee's trademark social commentaries on race are present, but mildly so, for they seem lost in the shuffle of changing editing styles and subplots. If I can leave off on a positive note, I have to admit that the incorporation of op songs from the seventies was handled in a manner equally as impressive as "Dazed and Confused." I shudder to think how much worse the story would have crawled in the absence of the great soundtrack. Oh well, just a couple of more films to go from my early era at the Baxter.
Watch the Trailer