The hottest day of the year explodes onscreen in this vibrant look at a day in the life of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn. Featuring a stellar ensemble cast that includes Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, G... more »iancarlo Esposito, Robin Harris, Samuel L. Jackson, Bill Nunn, Rosie Perez, and John Turturro, Spike Lee's powerful portrait of urban racial tensions sparked controversy while earning popular and critical praise. Criterion is proud to present Do the Right Thing in a new Director Approved special edition.« less
"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."
Hot Day In Brooklyn
Thomas Magnum | NJ, USA | 01/03/2003
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Do the Right Thing - an irritating piece of genius
E. Carroll | San Antonio, TX United States | 11/06/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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."
Thoughtful, provocative slice of life
Ivy Lin | NY NY | 02/07/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
""Do the Right Thing" chronicles a scorching hot summer day in the predominantly black Bedford Stuyvesant neighborhood. We are quickly introduced to a variety of colorful characters, from Da Mayor, a neighborhood drunk who's always neatly dressed in a white suit (Ossie Davis) to Smiley, a mentally disabled man who sells pictures of Martin Luther King and Malcolm X, to Radio Raheem (Bill Dunn), a young man whose prized possession is a boombox so enormous you wonder how he even carries the thing around without his arms falling off. The action centers around Sal's Famous Pizzeria. Sal (Danny Aiello) owns the joint with his sons. Vito (Richard Edson) is a racist and bully, and Pino (John Turturro) is a white "brother" type. Mookie (Spike Lee) is the delivery boy, who slacks off and just "wants to get paid." Sal is gruff and no-nonsense, but he tolerates Mookie's lateness and also has a crush on Mookie's sister Jade (Joie Lee).
On this hot summer day, Buggin Out (Giancarlo Esposito) notices that the pictures that line Sal's Famous are all Italian Americans. He demands that Sal put some pictures of African American celebrities on the wall. Sal tactlessly refuses, and Buggin' Out starts a boycott. On the same front, Radio Rakeem is offended at the brusque way Sal demands him to turn off his beloved boombox. Buggin' Out and Radio Raheem meet up to commiserate. At first the boycott is regarded as a joke around the nabe, but the situation escalates towards a tragic climax.
When the movie came out, many critics and politicians did some hand-wringing that the movie would incite violence. But "Do the Right Thing", seen in context almost 16 years later, is a remarkably intelligent, balanced view of race relations. This year's Academy Award nominated "Crash" is also about race relations, but it does so with about 1000 times less subtety and humor. Do the Right Thing, despite its tragic conclusion, has a lot of wit and humor. It's truly a slice of life, with not a false note in the entire cast. Lee documents the sense of community in this poor Brooklyn neighborhood, but also its problems -- unemployment, drug use, drunkeness, absentee fathers. Mookie for one has a son with his Puerto Rican girlfriend (Rosie Perez), who complains that he's never around. There are lots of one liners. One response to Buggin' Out's boycott campaign: "You wanna boycott someone? You ought to start with the godd__n barber that f__ed up your head."
Another thing Lee refuses to do is to judge any of his characters. Except for Vito, who is an irredeemable jerk. The characters are all a mix of good and bad, just as in real life. Sal is curt and gruff, but he also has genuine affection for his neighborhood. Sal's, Radio's, and Mookie's actions during the climax of the film may seem shocking and incomprehensible, but I think Lee is saying that sometimes, people do things in the heat of the moment, without thinking of its consequences. Situatons escalate, and people are helpless to stop the momentum. In the end, nobody wins. The film ends with two quotes about violence, one by Martin Luther King Jr., one by Malcolm X.
Criterion "did the right thing" with this double-disc edition. There's an audio commentary track by Lee on the first disc. The second disc is loaded with goodies: an hourlong "Making Of" documentary. You see facades being built in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood for filming. It's certainly more interesting than the normal bland gush-fest. There's the music video for "Fight for the Power", the song that Radio Raheem played on his boombox. There's also footage of a Cannes film festival news conference with Lee and his cast.
The most enriching extra is behind-the-scenes footage, where the multi-ethnic actors can be seen rehearsing their lines together. They debate the best way to portray their character or to convey plot points, and Spike Lee takes suggestions from his cast. In one of the most fascinating discussions, Lee talks about how his characters would come up with the money for their expensive clothing/jewelry. How could Radio Raheem afford such an expensive boombox (and the batteries to run the ginormous thing). He talks about the loiterers in these neighborhoods. What do they do? "Not all the money comes from selling drugs," he says. Lee says he has to honestly convey the black underclass, and not make it a cliche of selling drugs, etc. Most of all, you sense the comraderie that the actors felt making the film. All of these add a lot to understanding of the film."
The movie that put Spike on the map, and deservedly so.
Jenny J.J.I. | That Lives in Carolinas | 01/13/2007
(5 out of 5 stars)
"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. "