Reviewed by: Andrew Hager
I am not an easy man to offend. However, Spike Lee managed to accomplish just that with his wild and wooly summer of ’99 release, “Summer of Sam”.
The title summer is 1977. New York was a scary place to be. Crime was at a high peak; the notorious Son of Sam killer, David Berkowitz, roamed free, killing at will. The heat was unbearable. Punk rock and disco were heating up. (On a good note, the Yankees were headed for the World Series.) These events are the backdrop for Lee’s story. The film follows Vinnie, an adulterous hairdresser as he cheats on his wife, Dionna. All the while, the murders occurring around them intensify and the neighborhood begins to scapegoat outsiders, namely a young punk rocker (Adrien Brody).
On an entertainment basis, the film is just okay—but not even close to Lee’s “Malcolm X”. However, from a Christian standpoint, it is perhaps the most offensive movie I have ever seen. This has more sex than some NC-17 films. Vinnie sleeps with almost every woman he knows. For someone who claims to love God as he does, he seems to have never read Exodus 20:14—“Thou shallt not commit adultery”—or much else of the Bible. The sex scenes are unnecessarily gratuitous and numerous. Much nudity is shown. An orgy is visited in an extended sequence and graphically realized. More than 300 f-words stream across the screen, but compared to the sex, one may not notice it. The violence is graphic, but seems necessary, unlike the other aspects of this film. Lee’s good camera work fails to save the picture for its sinful excess.
Speaking as the voice of someone hardened to film sex and profanity, I was appalled by this film’s content. While it is marginally entertaining, any concern you have for the story or the fine performances will be lost in your disgust at the sin on display. I will never recommend this film to anyone.