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Do The Right Thing (1989)

May 14, 2009

VERDICT:
8/10 Ghetto Blasters

I’m not really sure how I feel about Spike Lee. Wasn’t crazy about him talking smack about Clint Eastwood over the whole “There’s no Black people in Flags of Our Fathers” thing and his movies can be pretty hit or miss.

But if there’s a Spike Lee joint worth pointing out, it’s this one.

Do The Right Thing follows a day in the life of a pizza delivery man in late-1980’s Brooklyn on the hottest day of Summer as he crosses paths with the local residents that are mad as hell and just waiting to snap.

The movie plays out as a slow boil of racial tension that culminates in one final scene that will undoubtedly put you on one side of the fence or the other in regards to whether you’ll like this movie or not.

But it’s a cool movie, it’s a time capsule back to a Brooklyn where Public Enemy was flooding the airwaves, social standings were measured in Air Jordans, and L.A. was about to riot over the Rodney King verdict. This was all very interesting to me, not just because I’ve had a Public Enemy phase, but because I was too busy watching Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles when I grew up in Brooklyn to know about any of this stuff at the time it was happening.

There’s a lot of great dialogue amongst the residents of Bed-Stuy about love, hate, racism, Mike Tyson, paying a dollar for extra cheese on your pizza, and remembering to do the right thing among many other topics. The characters are engaging and memorable because they all come together to form a community where everyone’s connected and it’s a place that you can actually believe existed. Everyone gets their say and they’ve all got a lot on their mind. They curse a lot, too, but that’s alright.

Aside from being a cool period piece, it’s one of the more challenging movies I’ve ever seen. The first time I saw it I really didn’t know what to think of it, it wasn’t until the second viewing that things started coming together for me. Do The Right Thing doesn’t provide you with any easy answers, so get ready to be shaken up.

Spike Lee doesn’t just let you sit back and form your own opinions casually, he gets in your face, slaps around your moral compass and howls, “What the fuck now?” Do The Right Thing has a message that demands to be heard, so if you’re going to give it a chance, you’re in for an earful. Man, I remember literally tensing up in my seat as the anger built up over the course of those two hours.

Something to keep in mind. After I saw this movie for the first time, I read an interview with Spike Lee about the general reception towards the movie’s most climactic scene that I mentioned earlier. I don’t remember where it was published, but he said something along the lines of, “It’s funny, because every time a White person asks me about Do The Right Thing, they always ask about that scene. But not a single Black person has ever asked me about it.”

That quote might sound cryptic now, but it really does speak volumes.

When you watch this movie you need to keep a couple things in mind. 1. What race-relations were like in America during the time Do The Right Thing takes place. And, 2. Think about what your impression of this movie would be if you were of a different ethnicity. The title of the movie may seem pretty straightforward at first, but you’re going to be running it through your head for days after it’s over.

Even with all that said, Do The Right Thing is a movie that will still throw you for a loop when you see it for the first time. So give it a watch, you’re brain could use a working over amidst all the mindless “My robot’s bigger than your robot” movies coming out this Summer.

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3 Comments leave one →
  1. July 13, 2010 12:07 pm

    I loved this film with each and every bit of my heart. Check out my review here: http://dtmmr.wordpress.com/2010/07/13/do-the-right-thing-1989/

    • July 14, 2010 11:38 am

      Yeah, I need to watch this one again. Wrote this review back when I was really cutting the crap, but I’d probably give it a 9 in retrospect.

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