MOVIE REVIEW: “Do the Right Thing” stars Spike Lee (Malcolm X, She’s Gotta Have It), Danny Aiello (Léon: The Professional, Moonstruck), Ossie Davis (The Client, Bubba Ho-Tep), John Turturro (O Brother Where Art Thou?, Transformers ), Richard Edson (Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, Super Mario Bros. ), Ruby Dee (American Gangster, Just Cause), Giancarlo Esposito (Breaking Bad [TV series], The Usual Suspects), Bill Nunn (Regarding Henry, Spider-Man ), Paul Benjamin (Escape from Alcatraz, The Station Agent), Frankie Faison (Coming to America, White Chicks), Robin Harris (House Party, Mo’ Better Blues), Joie Lee (Crooklyn, She’s Gotta Have It ), Rosie Perez (Birds of Prey, White Men Can’t Jump), Miguel Sandoval (Jurassic Park, Clear and Present Danger), Rick Aiello (Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me, Sex and the City ), Martin Lawrence (Bad Boys, Martin [TV series]), and Samuel L. Jackson (Pulp Fiction, Captain Marvel). It is written and directed by Spike Lee.
On the hottest day of the year on a street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn, everyone’s hate and bigotry smolders and builds until it explodes into violence.
Let’s dip back in the archives with another Spike Lee joint. This one being his earliest: “Do the Right Thing.” It’s a character piece whose biggest figure is the atmosphere it’s set in. That is, a block in Brooklyn, 1989.
I love features that primarily focus on a character rather than an external situation. And Lee’s “Do the Right Thing” has a plethora of characters who we get to see live out one full day. Yep. One day. And boy does it have a wild conclusion.
As some of us may know, Spike Lee is one for using his films as a means of political/social dissection. It was evident in the only movie I saw of his (“Blackkklansman”) and it’s pretty clear in this one. The conflict that takes place is a social divide of cultures on the block. There’s a pizzeria owned by Italians who spark some beef when they won’t include a black man on their wall of fame. What unfolds is a mixture of things. While that is the primary force that rears its head later in the flick, the picture at large mainly deals with the lifestyle of growing up on such a lower class block. The sights and sounds of this are wonderful; life is breathed into almost every frame, and the style that Lee utilizes is interesting.
From a writing standpoint, it’s very well done. Lee manages to balance out all the characters and give them plenty to do, even though the situations are fairly mundane. He kept me engaged in this, by spreading out little incidents here and there to keep the ball rolling. And man, there were quite a bit of well-known people here to give a show. John Turturro, Giancarlo Esposito, Danny Aiello, and Samuel L. Jackson to name a few. They all did fantastically, and in different ranges (some controlled, others grandiose). The fact that Spike was able to direct these guys AND act in it himself is quite a feat.
There’s some good laughs in this one, but as we reach the conclusion, things take a turn for the worst (in terms of tone). This is only the second Spike Lee movie I’ve seen, but much like “Blackkklansman,” this one goes for a wild finish. Chaos erupts, and nothing is the same as it once was. Kind of the flip of the hero’s journey, if you ask me. The world that’s established in the beginning is the same one throughout. It’s only in the final act that it really changes, and what’s left is pretty sad. I’m impartial to the ending. I thought some character choices proved odd (like Mookie’s decision during the climax), some of which felt forced to serve the narrative Lee was looking to evoke. But by and large this is a well-rounded movie with solid characters and fun circumstances.
“Do the Right Thing” is a hang-out film with a bite to it. There’s an agenda within it, but that doesn’t knock the fact that it’s a character piece. I loved the world that Lee (sort of) created and the writing work he did. He truly made an interesting story composed of many dialogue moments that more so encapsulated a theme than a goal. And while it’s finale leaves me torn, I will still hold that I found this to be a solid one. FINAL SCORE: 85%= Juicy Popcorn
Here is the trailer: