Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB.5. USA, 1989. 40 Acres & A Mule Filmworks. Screenplay by Spike Lee. Cinematography by Ernest R. Dickerson. Produced by Spike Lee. Music by Bill Lee. Production Design by Wynn Thomas. Costume Design by Ruth E. Carter. Film Editing by Barry Alexander Brown. Academy Awards 1989. Boston Film Critics Awards 1989. Cannes Film Festival 1989. Golden Globe Awards 1989. New York Film Critics Awards 1989.
Spike Lee’s best film is this explosive examination of racism in America, whittled down to the microcosm of a street corner in Brooklyn on the hottest day of the summer. Lee plays a whimsical pizza delivery boy who spends time with friends and family between deliveries, infuriating his Italian-American boss (Danny Aiello), whose son (John Turturro) isn’t nearly as lenient as he is. Among the other ensemble characters are Lee’s sister Joie (who is excellent) as his sister, Ossie Davis as the neighbourhood’s unofficial mayor and Rosie Perez (in her breakthrough role) as Lee’s girlfriend. At first it plays like a fun multicharacter comedy, but then tension mounts at the pizza parlor when a highly strung member of the community (Giancarlo Esposito) picks a fight with Aiello and the whole neighbourhood goes up in flames. Ernest Dickerson’s fantastic cinematography allows the viewer to feel the heat of the setting, while Lee’s superb screenplay and direction increase the suspense until the explosive climax.