[box cover]

Summer of Sam

Spike Lee's best film since Malcolm X (1992) is a stylish, energetic recreation of New York's bizarre summer of 1977, when temperatures were at record highs, punk rock was rearing its pierced head, the city lost power for two days, and serial killer David Berkowitz was on a murdering rampage. The center of Lee's pastiche is Vinny (John Leguizamo) a married Italian who compulsively cheats on wife Dionna (Mira Sorvino) with every woman in their Brooklyn neighborhood. A close brush with the killer brings out conflicting emotions in this already disturbed philanderer — as it does everyone else in New York, some of whom form paranoid lynch mobs determined to eliminate all possible suspects. There are times when Summer of Sam recalls Lee's masterpiece Do the Right Thing, with its complex network of characters, inventive visuals, and mastery at documenting abrasive behaviors nearing explosion. However, given nearly 150 minutes, Lee loses his grip in the last hour, and his story wanders when it ought to focus. The acting is great, especially Leguizamo, who is usually beyond grating, and Sorvino does her best (and sexiest) work yet. The end result is mixed, but reminds after recent disasters that Spike Lee is a rare, if undisciplined and often wayward, talent. Written by Lee with Victor Colicchio and actor Michael Imperioli, with a typically ponderous score by Terrance Blanchard. In 1.85:1 widescreen and Dolby Digital 5.1. Trailers, keep case.
—Gregory P. Dorr

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