Spike Lee: That's My Story and I'm Sticking to It. By Spike Lee and
Kaleem Aftab. 2006, 320 pages. Order the book from
Summer of Sam, 1999. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com,
Malcolm X. Directed by Spike Lee. With Denzel Washington as Malcolm X. Get it on DVD
from Amazon.com, Amazon.de
Do The Right Thing, 1989. Directed by Spike Lee. With e.g. Spike Lee as Mookie, Danny Aiello as Sal
and a sensational John Turturro as one of Sal's sons. Get it on DVD from Amazon.com,
Summer Of Sam
Directed by Spike Lee, 1999
Order Summer of Sam on DVD from Amazon.com
John Leguizamo ...Vinny
Mira Sorvino ...Dionna
Jennifer Esposito ...Ruby
Adrien Brody ...Ritchie
Michael Rispoli ...Joe T
Bebe Neuwirth ...Gloria
Saverio Guerra ...Woodstock
Michael Badalucco...David Berkowitz
Article added on
September 3, 2001
At the box office, Summer of Sam
flopped in the USA some time ago. In Switzerland, the film was only released this summer
where it did not bring big crowds into the cinema either. However, Spike
Lee's movie offers a great study of a certain environment in New York City
in 1977. As someone says in the film, there are eight million stories
about this city - this is one of them.
At the very beginning, Summer of Sam
does not adequately catch your attention because the movie's rhythm and the story are not
engaging. Still, the idea of letting David Berkowitz (Michael Badalucco), who called himself
"Son of Sam", shoot people to the Disco sound of ABBA is quite
original. The film is not mainly about the killer who, in 1978, was
sentenced to 300 years in prison and is still serving his sentence. Spike Lee
paints a dark picture of the Italian part of the Bronx where infidelity,
drug traffic and abuse, discrimination and hatred reign or are ready to
surface at any moment as the result of any minor incident. Quickly, one gets involved
with the lives of the main characters, Vinny (John
Leguizamo) and his wife Dionna (Mira Sorvino) as well as with his buddy Ritchie
(Adrien Brody) and Ruby (Jennfer Esposito) who becomes Ritchie's
Vinny is a macho type who cheats on his wife, partly because he cannot live
sexual fantasies with Dionna - one does not do dirty things with one's
wife. One day, Ritchie decides to become a punk. He comes into the Italian
neighborhood wearing a Union Jack T-shirt, shocking with a punk haircut
and speaking with a British accent. Ritchie becomes a member of the punk
Term Abortion. The road to fame is hard and, therefore, he
also works as stripper and prostitute in a club for homosexuals.
The police asks the local Mafia to help them to find the killer. Luigi (Ben
Gazzara) does not trust the cops and instead organizes vigilante groups,
armed with baseball bats. As in Do The Right Thing, Spike Lee,
depicts NYC as a melting-pot ready to boil over.
As often in history, the one who is different, the bisexual punk Ritchie,
becomes a victim of public hatred. His parents confine him to live in
their garage. Some Italian guys suspect him of being the "Son of
Sam". In the end, even his best friend Vinny betrays him.
Astonishingly, Mira Sorvino
does not, as usual, overshadow the other actors. This is partly due to her
role as the decent and naive (regarding her husband's infidelities) wife who
works as a waitress in her father's restaurant. Still, Sorvino's
performance remains pale by her standards.
Jennifer Esposito as Ruby, a young woman who becomes Ritchie's girlfriend
and turns into a punk rocker too, gives the most memorable female performance.
However, the undisputed star of the film is John Leguizamo. The way he
portrays Vinny, the Catholic hairdresser, womanizer and weak character who
feels guilt for his actions but cannot change, makes Summer of Sam
a movie not to miss. Adrien Brody as Ritchie is not bad either. In fact,
the entire cast is excellent.
This is an extreme movie with a lot of violence and sex. But at the same
time, there is an honest down-to-Earth side to it which makes Spike Lee
dig deep into disturbed minds and souls.
John Leguizamo was born in Bogota, Colombia, in 1964. He immigrated to the United States with his family
in 1968. He decided to become an actor and studied at
New York University and with Lee Strasberg (one day before Strasberg died). Leguizamo began his career as a stand-up comedian in
New York clubs. His TV debut came in 1986 with a part in an episode of the Miami
His big screen debut followed in 1989 with a small part in DePalma's Casualties of
War. In 1991, he had minor roles in Die Hard 2, Regarding
Henry and other movies. This was also the year of this breakthrough
with the leading roles in Hangin' with the Homeboys and Mambo
Mouth. For this performance, Leguizamo, who portrayed seven Latino characters,
won the Obie and Outer Critics Circle Awards. Later shown on HBO, it won
him also a CableACE award. In 1993, Leguizamo returned to the stage with
the one-man show Spic-O-Rama. Sold-out in Chicago and in New York, it won
him a Drama Desk Award and, after airing on HBO, four CableACE
Awards. In 1993, Leguizamo also played the part of a young punk in Brian DePalma's
Carlito's Way. His first leading part in a major production came with Super Mario
Bros. In 1995, Leguizamo
created and starred in a TV comedy-variety show called House of Buggin'.
It was the first one with an all-Latino cast. Despite two
Emmy nominations, it did not have a long life. Leguizamo's performance as Chi Chi Rodriguez in
the not very convincing To Wong Foo: Thanks
For Everything, Julie Newmar earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Other films with Leguizamo
include The Fan (1996) and Spawn
(1997). His critically and publicly acclaimed Broadway debut came in 1998 with
Freak, a one-man show directed by David Bar Katz. The TV version
earned him an Emmy. In 1999 came Leguizamo's leading role in Summer
of Sam. The same year, he was the leading actor and executive producer
of Frank Whaley's directorial debut,
Joe the King. At the 1999 Sundance Film Festival, it won a screenwriting award.
Recently, Leguizamo shot (or is about to shoot) What's the Worst That Could Happen?
(2001), Moulin Rouge (2001), Collateral Damage (2001) and Ice
Age (2002). Leguizamo is one of the rare actors to be taken seriously both as a
comic performer and a dramatic actor.
For information on Mira Sorvino, check our article:
Jennifer Esposito was born in New York where she trained at the Lee Strasberg Institute.
In the early 1990s, she appeared on TV, e.g. in New York
Undercover. She had small parts in the independent movie productions Kiss
Me, Guido (1997) and A
Brother's Kiss (1997). However, Jennifer Esposito was best known for
her part as Michael
J. Fox's secretary in ABC's sitcom Spin City. Her movie
credits also include the blue collar romance No
Looking Back (1998), I
Still Know What You Did Last Summer (1998) and Spike
Lee's basketball drama He
Got Game (1998). After her part as Ruby in Summer
of Sam (1999), Jennifer left Spin City in 1999. Her latest
films include The
Bachelor (1999), Just One Time (2000), Boys Life 3
(2000), Made (2001) and Don't Say a Word (2001) with
Adrien Brody was born in NYC. At 12, he was performing as a magician at children's parties.
His mother, a photographer, encouraged him to take acting classes. Adrien
attended both the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the High School
for the Performing Arts. He worked in off-Broadway productions. His TV debut
came in 1988 with a part in the PBS movie Home at Last. After a year of college,
Brody played a critically acclaimed part in Steven Soderbergh's drama King of the
Hill (1993). This opened the door to other films such as Angels in the Outfield
(1994) and The Last Time I
Committed Suicide (1997) which co-starred Keanu Reeves. In 1997, Brody
had lead roles in
Wedding and Six Ways to Sunday. In 1999, his picture appeared
on the cover of Vanity Fair.
His latest movies include The Thin Red Line (1998), Summer of Sam (1999),
Harrison's Flowers (2001), Bread and
Roses (2001) and The Affair of the Necklace (2001).