Summer of Sam

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(1999) ★★★★

Sky Movies Crime & Thriller: Sunday 13 July, 12.50am

New York City in the powercut heatwave summer of 1977. Fashion victim masochists queue up to be humiliated by the selection process at Studio 54 while punk rock and disco-dancing fever vye for attention in the clubs. Dominating the headlines is a madman who’s shooting brunettes at random with a .44 calibre pistol. He calls himself Son of Sam and operates almost exclusively in the Bronx (he has one sortie in Brooklyn). Tempers rise along with the temperature as panic and paranoia spread through the predominantly Italian-American community. Spike Lee’s ambitious mosaic covers a lot of territory, conveying the atmosphere of a time and place with impressive authority. By largely ignoring the police procedural (despite a mammoth manhunt, the killer David Berkowitz was eventually apprehended via a parking ticket violation), Lee is able to focus on the people living in fear and defiance in the neighbourhood. John Leguizamo is a hairdresser from the Warren Beatty school of Shampoo and sex, a womaniser who’s unable to ask young wife Mira Sorvino to perform ‘sinful’ bedroom acts (she thinks there’s something wrong with her). Best friend Adrien Brophy adopts a British accent to go with his spiky dog collar and wild punk hairdos, and is treated with increasing contempt and suspicion by the street-corner layabouts pushing nickel bags of dope. The cops ask local wiseguy Ben Gazzara to help find the killer. The killer lives in squalid isolation, ranting at a large black dog whose barking keeps him awake at night. The dog speaks to the killer, urging him to kill (Berkowitz ultimately dropped this line of defence, but it makes a chillingly funny scene). Lee’s script (co-written with actor Michael Imperioli) captures the blunt colloquialism of street corner deadbeats and, typically, he’s assembled serious, weighty material with deft assurance. Terence Blanchard’s music provides grave contrast to the era’s pop songs, and the acting throughout is outstanding.

Certificate: 18

Duration: 137min

Other Showings Time & Date
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Friday, 17 July at 1:05AM
Sky Movies Crime/Thriller Thursday, 23 July at 3:00AM