In honor of Spike Lee’s next feature “BlacKkKlansman” now in theaters, here’s my review of his 1989 film “Do the Right Thing.”
From 1989, Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” is a ode to the relationship of African-Americans, Asians, Hispanics, and Whites in their Brooklyn neighborhood. We get dialogue so fearless and outspoken, character so flexible and real, humor so honest, and ambitions so true, this movie has to be seen.
We meet a variety of characters on a hot day in Brooklyn. Mookie (Lee) is a slacking pizza delivery boy working for his white boss Sal (Danny Aiello) and his two sons: the racist Pino (John Turturro) and the friendlier Vito (Richard Edson). Mookie also has a girlfriend Tina (Rosie Perez) and a son; and he deals with the hardships of reality: his job, the characters he’s pals with, his more responsible sister Jade (Joie Lee), and his neighborhood.
Meanwhile, Sal has owned the pizzeria for 25 years, and only Pino thinks they should get out of the neighborhood, because of his dislike for African-Americans. His dad refuses, but when his pizzeria doesn’t have any African-American celebrities on his Wall of Fame, Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), a friend of Mookie, threatens to boycott him. He receives some extra help in his protest, and that’s when things really spin out of control.
The neighborhood also includes Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), the town drunk; Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), the boombox holder with Public Enemy hits; Mister Senior Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), the DJ; Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), the motherly figure, whom Da Mayor fancies; and the disabled Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) trying to sell pictures of Martin Luther King Jr., and Malcolm X.
“Do the Right Thing” opens with Perez dancing to Public Enemy’s hit song “Fight the Power” in the style of a music video, stops with Jackson playing the hits, continues with how the characters deal with their situations on such a hot day, and concludes with a riot. It’s a powerful movie that deals with racial issues, and what people are willing to do to stand up to it.
As the writer, producer, and director, Spike Lee has all the skills and guts to represent races in certain areas, and to “Fight the Power.” In fact, he’s one of the most fearless directors in any generation. He allows his characters to use their words and motivations, and gives them the spotlight with the right camera angles.
The performances from Lee, Aiello, Davis, Esposito, Nunn, Perez, Dee, and Tuturro are outstanding. They’re not afraid to say what what’s on their minds, they’re given motivating dialogue, and they just leave you stunned. Given the choices and directions they’re given, this is exceptional acting. And Lee and Aiello have the best chemistry of the movie in the ways they bicker and share their own principles.
“Do the Right Thing” is a movie that should be watched in the past, present, or future. We are still facing racial issues in the world, and for those of you who haven’t seen it, you should keep learning about racial problems in the early ’90s.
And I just can’t stop dancing to “Fight the Power.”