75 of 81 people found the following review helpful
on February 25, 2001
In only his third film, Spike Lee created a classic that is both socially relevant and artistically accomplished. By focusing the actions at one location in one day, this film reminds us that race relation cannot be improved if we don't improve the way each one of us interacts with everyone else. The film's finale is notable for its echos of real events that occurred not long before the film was made, and its prescience of events to follow. It is an unforgettable movie scene that shows how intolerance can victimize everyone. Nevertheless, the apocalyptic vision of the final scene did not sit well with some critics. Is it a call to end violence or to start violence, they asked. In the film Lee seems to say there are no easy answers.
Somewhat overlooked is the fact that the film also makes keen observations of lives of American black underclass, especially in the portrayals of the "cornermen". Their exchanges are as amusing as they are trenchant in commenting the state of affairs of lower-class blacks. And through them, Lee takes the uncompromising position that sometimes the underprivileged can also be victims of their own mentalities.
Also, Lee subtlely shows the many faces of racial intolerance. While Sal's son Pino overtly hates blacks, and Buggin' Out is overtly intolerant of whites, but is the attitude of Sal himself really conducive towards racial harmony? Does he have a desire to get to know his neighbors, or does he simply want to "have no trouble with these people", as he puts it? By leaving this aspect ambiguous, Lee makes us think just what IS the right thing to do...
Despite all the criticisms against him, I believe Lee tackled the difficult subject as intelligently as any director could have done.
The Criterion DVD contains most of the supplements in the Criterion laserdisc released in 1995 -- audio commentaries, cast meetings and screen tests, 'Making Of' documentary. New supplements include Lee's press conference at the '89 Cannes festival, video interview with editor Barry Brown, "Fight the Power" music video, and a video segment showing the filmmakers re-visiting the Bed-Stuy neighborhood.
The DVD's video quality is characterized by deep, rich, saturated colors which cinamatographer Ernst Dickerson so brilliantly captured in order to create a feeling of overwhelming heat (literally and figuratively). There is a Dolby Digital 2.0 audio track (Prologic-decodable to surround), and a PCM stereo track that actually sounds brighter and crisper than the DD track.
49 of 57 people found the following review helpful
Spike Lee's 1989 film Do The Right Thing is among a handful of films that rise above the level of actual entertainment. It is thought-provoking, educational study of race relations. The film takes place during one extremely hot day in the Bedford-Stuyvesant section of Brooklyn. The neighborhood is predominately black, but the film centers around a pizzeria owned by Sal (Danny Aiello) who is white. All of Sal's customers are the black, but on his wall he has pictures of white film and music stars. This is a source of irritation to some customers, especially the radically minded Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito). But Sal refuses to change and he goes about his business. Sal's two sons, Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson) also work at the pizzeria as does Mookie (Mr. Lee) who is Sal's delivery boy. Pino is highly bigoted and isn't afraid to let his opinions be know, while Vito is more sensitive and adverse to confrontation. Real life husband and wife Ossie Davis & Ruby Dee appear as the neighborhood elders, Da Mayor & Mother Sister who are constantly trading humorous barbs at one another while dispensing advice to the locals. Other interesting characters such as Radio Raheem, Sweet Dick Willie & DJ Mister Senor Love Daddy are featured throughout the film. Mr. Lee does a brilliant job of conveying the extreme heat that has overtaken the neighborhood. You can almost feel the heat while watching the film. Tensions also slowly rise through the film until the climatic riot scene where Sal's pizzeria is burned down, started by Mookie throwing a garbage can through the window. This is particularly devastating to Sal as he genuinely cared for Mookie and can't believe Mookie would do this to him. Mr. Lee's message in the film is that one doesn't know exactly what the right thing is. He illustrates this by the messages of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Dr. King was for a peaceful solution to racism while Malcolm X said to fight for equality by any means necessary. Is passively sitting back right or is violence right? Mr. Lee never answers the question, which is exactly his point. Do The Right Thing was shunned at the 1989 Academy Awards garnering only a nomination for Mr. Aiello (which was richly deserved) in the Best Supporting Actor category. Ironically the film that won Best Picture was Driving Miss Daisy which was the stereotypical Hollywood portrayal of blacks as subservient workers and the type of film that Mr. Lee's pictures were the antithesis of. All in all, Do The Right Thing is a brilliant movie and one that deserves all the accolades that it received.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
The first time I've seen Spike Lee's "Do the Right Thing" was at the theater and the movie refused to leave my mind for about several weeks. It just kept replaying itself constantly in my mind of the events and the turn a bouts of the story. The writing is so sharp and the movie is hilarious as well as the only movie to make Roger Ebert cry.
Deceptively open and simple in its presentation, this is one of the most complex and layered movies about human relationships that I have ever seen during that time. This movie is every bit as compound as its subject matter. I disagree with those who characterize the film as "preachy." Quite to the contrary, I think the genius of the film is precisely in the fact that Spike does not tell the viewer what to think - he just compels you to think.
Spike spends most of the movie setting up his characters and their situations, some are comedic, some are dramatic, and some are both. The acting is naturally great, with John Turturro, Danny Aiello, and Spike himself standing out as the best played and most interesting characters. The movie looks very much "of the 80's" as far as fashion and things like that go but that doesn't take any power away from the movie. But the biggest question people seem to have after they have watched this movie is about doing the right thing and whether or not Mookie did it. Spike always only says that he's never been asked that question by a person of color. However my feeling on the matter is this: Did Mookie do the right thing? No. Did Sal do the right thing? No. From the time that Radio Raheem comes into Sal's at the end, not one person does the right thing. Not Mookie, Sal, Radio, Buggin Out, the cops, or whoever. Everything horrible that happens could have been avoided if one person had done the right thing, and yet nobody does.
I think that's why the movie stuck with me. Most movies would show everyone (or just the "hero") doing the right thing and everything turning out happily, but that's not what usually happens in reality. Too often people give in to their worst instincts. In here we have New York explodes over a seemingly little incident because racial tensions are always just below the surface. This film is truly a work of art and out all Of the Spike Lee movies I've seen this is one of his finest. "Do the Right Thing" is one of the signatures of an American classic.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on July 13, 2004
This movie is largely an angry, outrageous film. But it is also a beautiful and enlightening one. DO THE RIGHT THING garnered Spike Lee, writer, director, and star of the film, both praise and criticism. But what you must remember, those who either praise it or look down upon it, is that DO THE RIGHT THING couldn't be further from the truth.
DO THE RIGHT THING was an introduction to Lee's brazen and bold style of filmmaking. He had a part in every aspect: direction, cast, production, writing the screenplay, etc. That's why, if someone is interested in seeing a "Spike Lee joint", I will definitely recommend DO THE RIGHT THING first and foremost.
It's a look at race relations in America circa 1989, a drastic glimpse in which the outsiders, meaning the audience, can feel as if they are right there in Harlem with Mookie (Spike Lee).
Mookie is an unmarried father, a boyfriend to Tina (Rosie Perez), loud and outspoken with her buxom figure. She pushes Mookie to spend more time with her and their son, complaining about him being a deadbeat dad. His excuse? Work.
True, much of Mookie's time is spent working at Sal's, a pizzeria in Harlem, run by white Italians in a neighborhood where the population appears to be around 99.5 percent black.
Other characters include Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) and Jade, Mookie's sister (Joie Lee). Radio Raheem's dialogue throughout the film it limited - he more or less expresses his freedom through his incessantly blaring radio. In fact, throughout the entire movie, Public Enemy's "FIGHT THE POWER" blasts throughout the neighborhood. Buggin' Out is irked with a situation at Sal's that he feels must immediately be taken care of. He just wants Sal to "put some brothas" up on his restaurant's walls, right beside pics of Frank Sinatra and Clark Gable. Sal (Danny Aiello) refuses to comply with Buggin' Out's request.
In the end, Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out fuel an argument that quickly evolves into a neighborhoodwide conflagration. Alas, Mookie fuels the fire by hurling a trashcan through the glass window of the pizzeria - his boss' pizzeria - and the brawl proceeds, with Sal and his sons standing on the sidelines.
DO THE RIGHT THING is an odd title for a film like this, some people may think. Is the right thing done? Does Lee believe that the characters in his film did the right thing? I'm not sure. The title can be interpreted in a number of ways, I suppose. First, I suspected it was irony. No, Mookie didn't do the right thing! He fueled the fire and instigated the riot to mammoth proportions! Property was destroyed and damaged! My second conclusion was merely that "doing the right thing" serves as an argument for the people, for people unwilling to make compromises or verbally come to an agreement through reasonable, mature conversation. In reality, the film isn't about who is right and who is wrong and why. You had people like Mookie, who seemed to act on impulse, and then you had Da Mayor, trying to calm the livid people down, trying to talk sense into their heads. People evidently followed Mookie's lead and in the process, they hurt and killed others, seriously damaged and neighborhood properties. Not only that, but mere misunderstanding and hate seems to exist between them, even after the riot ends. That's a sad thing, yet it's also a very true thing.
Lee's picture clarifies the fact that yes, misunderstanding between peoples does fuel hate, which, in turn, fuels even bigger and uglier physical problems. DO THE RIGHT THING was taboo for how it portrayed peoples of different races, yet for film's time, the state of Harlem and its residents was portrayed with frank and genuine realness that simply can't be denied. Certain characters, settings, and events rung clear and true. DO THE RIGHT THING is arguably one of the finest examples of race relations illustrated in film. You can watch and rewatch - and learn - from this tumultuous and dramatic "Spike Lee joint".
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on June 29, 2004
In all likelihood Spike Lee's most important achievement - as director, writer and actor (though to my taste Mo' Better Blues is just as good a picture) and one of the strongest films you'll see about race relations, `Do The Right Thing' looks dated at times, but it lost none of its impact and relevance. The movie takes place in a particularly hot day in a primarily African-American neighborhood in Brooklyn, and follows the various personalities who live there throughout the day; the center of the story is Sal's Famous Pizzeria - its owners, some of the few white people living in the neighborhood: Sal (Oscar nominated performance for Danny Aiello) and his two sons (John Torturro and Richard Edson), and Mookie (Spike Lee himself), the black delivery boy. What starts out as a light, entertaining movie with some amusing characters and light humor, gradually builds up tension to the point of being unbearable, up to the dramatic and tragic climax. Spike doesn't put as much emphasis on the characters themselves as he does on the relationships and the tension between them; and in this image of a very specific and small frame in time and place, makes a strong and important message about racism and race relations in general.
The film is populated with many different characters, all of them very memorable and each one a representative of a certain belief, mode of behavior or state of mind - on both sides of the conflict. From the uninhibited anger of Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) and Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) on one side and Pino (John Torturro) on the other side, to Jade (Joie Lee, Spike's sister in the film and in real life) and Vito (Richard Edson), who are trying to connect and live at peace with the other side, to Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), in his isolated but peaceful state of mind, living in complete peace with the world around him, and Smiley (Roger Smith), living in his own isolated existence. Then there's Mookie, who is stuck in the middle, torn between his commitment and responsibilities to both sides. Finally we have Mister Senor Love Daddy - played gorgeously by the one and only Samuel L. Jackson, in one of his finest performances - half active character and half all-knowing narrator - who represents the voice of reason in the conflict, the reason which is bound, ultimately, to collapse. Each and every character plays an important part in the climatic and dramatic conflict to which the movie builds up, and though it's the radical ones - Buggin Out and Radio Raheem - who trigger the events that cause the tragedy, they are not necessarily the ones who finish it. It is Mookie and Sal, in fact, who ultimately play the main part.
Do The Right Thing is not an easy watch; it's a mesmerizing, tense, difficult film that breaks many taboos and slaughters many holy cows. But in the end of it - hopefully - you'll be wiser than you were in the beginning, and that's what Lee have always tried to achieve in all his films. Watch it to get a real view on racism that doesn't duck the difficult issues and isn't afraid to tackle the real problem, and to see a master director at work. It's one of the best films of its time.
8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on March 1, 2001
I've only barely scratched the surface of this double disc DVD and feel compelled to brag about it already. Good DVDs should always contain this much material and should take several days/weeks to get through.
The movie itself is brilliant. Other reviewers have emphasized that already (and better than I could anyway). But a film like this one is so incredibly enhanced when intelligent, entertaining supplimental material is provided. Criterion and Spike Lee have compiled some of the best extras I have seen in a DVD package so far.
In a behind the scenes montage, Spike (and his brother) filmed a large portion of interviews and read-throughs with the cast members. We are able to see these actors question Spike about the script to understand their characters better. We see them interacting (sometimes awkwardly) with each other, attempting to establish comradery. And, as Spike clarifies things to the cast, we the audience receive clarity as well.
Of special note is the transformation of Rosie Perez. Her "character development" (that of herself, not of her film character) is amazing. When the interviews begin, she seems to be a detached outsider, frustrated by the others who might not have experienced the Bed-Stuy neighborhood as authentically as she did. When the featurette ends, she is close to tears, reminiscing on how much she will miss everyone. Seldom are we able to look into the lives of the actual actors as intimately as Spike has allowed us to do here.
I am highly anticipating the release of Lee's BAMBOOZLED on DVD, as well. I expect the extras (though not as much will be included as is found on DTRT) to be quite enlightening. That film, like this one, begs for further discussion and interaction.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2006
This movie goes beyond bigotry beyond dissatisifed human interaction.
As Mookie sits with his head in his hands at the end of the movie wondering what he has brought upon his own community, his own people, you know that this movie will fool only the people who refuse or are unable to look deeper in what troubles our world.
Lee's admission that blacks are the ones not opening the stores in the community, causing the trouble in the Italian owned pizza parlor, is the focal point of this minor masterpiece.
He allows both sides of the story to be told and at least in the movie doesnt apologize for that.
And I only say "minor" masterpiece as to not confuse that observation with his masterpiece of movie making, Malcolm X.
When first viewing the movie you'll take sides but of course.
If you side with the black pov you'll cheer Radio Racheem and his militant style.
And if you take the white pov you'll know the pizza guys are in the right.
BUT!!!, if you value honesty above prejudice you'll have a meeting of (your) mind(s) and KNOW what and where the truth lies.
No matter that Mr. Lee might have to play the race game when circulating throughout life/the streets, his thought is forever on celluoid/dvd and cant be changed or re/mis interpeted.
Do the Right Thing ... indeed mo fo!!!!
13 of 17 people found the following review helpful
on November 6, 1999
I remember a female friend of mine telling me she watched this film, and at the end stood up crying and yelling, "stop fighting! " This movie provokes you in that way. That Spike Lee managed to get these severe reactions from his actors - even the ones opposed to him onscreen - is brilliant. I doubt anybody in the cast completely agreed with his final product, but that is what makes this movie so moving. I wish other directors/producers would have the guts to tackle any subject as faithfully as Lee has here. I have followed John Turturro's career since "Do the Right Thing", and I'm barely able after all this time to forgive him for some of the things he says in this movie. Yes, it's only a movie. And Spike Lee is only a genius. To my friend who shouted in the theater, I can only say I wish this movie didn't have to be made.
10 of 13 people found the following review helpful
on September 1, 2003
It's the hottest day of the summer and racial tensions run deep in the Bed-Stuy section of Brooklyn, New York. This is the backdrop for Spike Lee's controversial 1989 film, "Do The Right Thing". Many critics and movie-goers were quick to blast this film for being what they perceived to be a "racist" movie. Most people who say this have probably only seen the movie once and were so quick to complain about its tension-filled ending.
"Right Thing" stars writer-director Lee as Mookie, a somewhat lazy pizza delivery boy who works at the local pizzeria run by Sal and his Italian-American sons. Through Mookie's many trips through the neighborhood, we get acquainted with some of the other "characters" such as the block's "wise man" (or "town drunk", depending on how you perceive him), "Da Mayor" (Ossie Davis). We also get introduced to the trouble-making Buggin' It Out who is intent on boycotting Sal's Famous until they "put some brothas on the wall". Then, there's Radio Raheem, whose boombox blasts Public Enemy's "Fight The Power" loudly through out the movie. He doesn't speak much as the music seems to be his outlet of expression. It also happens to get him in a lot of trouble as the movie progresses.
Lee's treatmant of certain characters in "Right Thing" is questionable at times. He seems to feel strongly that many of the white characters in this New York neighborhood would root for Boston sports teams because their top players are also white. At times, Danny Aiello's Sal seems sympathetic and kind while in the end, he is more or less portrayed as a "closet racist". This might be why some of us are so fast to make observations about the film's racial biases but I've never felt that "Do The Right Thing" has ever been about who is right and who is wrong. In the end, everyone loses out because rather than go about handling certain small problems by compromising, people choose to argue over who is "doing the right thing" and who isn't. In the end, people are hurt and killed, property is destroyed, and all that seems to remain is animosity.
While I may argue with the way that Spike wrote certain characters, this is "his" movie. Would the ending situation have been any different if he had re-wrote them? Probably not. So many of its critics fail to see the big picture with "Do The Right Thing". It isn't about whether Sal was right or whether Mookie was right or Buggin' It Out. The original problem was so small, so minor, and each of the characters allowed it to balloon into a big one. Even the less important characters contributed to the problem by instigating it further. The only character who seemed to understand what was going on was Samuel L. Jackson's almost narrator-like radio DJ, Senor Love Daddy. He understands it, he sees the tension esculating, and he is telling everyone to relax but it's too late. "And that's the triple truth, Ruth".
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on December 23, 2009
Do The Right Thing (1989)
It's hard to believe that it's been 20 years since I first saw this movie in theaters, but it has and I'm getting old.
This one chronicles The hottest day of the summer in the Bedford-Stuyvesant (Bed-Stuy for short) neighborhood of Brooklyn, NY. Danny Aiello plays Sal, the owner of Sal's Famous Pizzeria that has been there for over 25 years. During that time, I assume the neighborhod changed from predominately Italian American immigrants to mostly African American. Through it all, it seems as if Sal is very appreciative of the business and people that have allowed his family to thrive over the decades. Sal's son , Pino (John Tuturro, Transformers), who works at the Pizzeria is less appreciative. He is very open about his dislike for black people and openly urges Sal to sell the bussiness and move to the predominately Italian neighborhood of Bensonhurst Brooklyn. Spike Lee plays Mookie, the neighborhood guy that Sal hired to deliver his pizzas across Bed-Stuy. Needless to say, Mookie and Pino don't get along.
Long story short, in the course of one day, things devolve, a lot of good people make some tremendously terrible decisions and some regrettable events transpire in what the American Film Institute included in it's 100 most Powerful Moments on Film (link when I get home.They subsequently named DtRT thier 96th greatest american film of all time.) You as the audience are tasked to decide who "did the right thing." As a teenager, I always thought that Spike Lee used the Mookie character to speak for his own opinions on the matter, but now, 20 years later, in the age of Obama, I really don't think so. I think he was just writing the character. His director's commentary seems to confirm that. He says he gave up offering his opinion on the "Right Thing" a while after the movie was released. The shot of Public Enemy's 1989 anthem "Fight the Power" playing in the backgroung while panning through the ashes of Sal's Pizzeria was worth it alone.
I have to admit that sometimes the characters seem more like caricatures and in a weird way, that helps to give a it a feeling that this could be any black neighborhood in the US at almost anytime, but when it's all said and done, this is a great movie, IMHO. In my mind, this is one of our modern classics that is a must have. If you've never seen it or rarely seen it, I strongly urge you to give it a viewing. Ernest Dickerson (Cinematographer, Director of Dexter, The Wire, Stargate Universe) made a concious choice to film this movie in the hue of yellow in order to get a summer audience to "feel the heat" and this really shows through well on Blu-ray along with other movie magic he reveals on a special featurette. The special features are well worth it for the director's commentary alone. Spike Lee is not a typical director and his personality really shines through. Looking foward to more Blu's from Spike like Malcolm X and Jungle Fever.
It's worth noting that if this movie came out right now, it would be considered "star studded." Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Danny Aiello, John Turturro, Spike Lee, Rosie Perez (who was a freakin' hottie despite her mouth), Bill Nunn, Martin Lawrence, Giancarlo Espisito and many other were in here and for many of them, it was their first film. I'm really glad to have this Blu-ray in my collection.
Film 9.0 Disk 7.5