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Summer of Sam

Year: 1999
Production Co: 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks
Director: Spike Lee
Producer: Spike Lee
Writer: Spike Lee
Cast: John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito

Like those of Stephen Soderbergh it's very hard for me to dislike the films of Spike Lee. Even without his evocative plumbing of the national character of the American black, his films have such a sense of time and place, a high watermark of quality that's impossible to ignore, even otherwise-garden variety thrillers like Inside Man.

This film is halfway between his movies that say something and his movies that entertain. I was nowhere near New York in 1977, but I felt the texture and form of the descent of disco, the rise of punk and the backdrop of Abba infuse every frame, and not just the costumes and the set dressing, but the whole language of the film.

A group of Bronx buddies are as frightened as the rest of the city of the Son of Sam killer, a psychopath who sets upon couples in lovers' lanes to blow them away with his Magnum.

When a former member of Vinny's (Leguizamo) little gang, Richie (a pre-star Brody) arrives back from the UK where he's picked up the punk bug, the more vocal among the group are convinced he's the killer. It's completely baseless, of course, and their motivations speak more about their state of frustration and boredom with the world than with any facts.

Lee captures a mood perfectly once again, and it's worth watching just for his assured hand.

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