SUMMER OF SAM
Spike Lee is probably the wrong person to make a film about the Son of Sam killings. What has resulted seems less a film about Son of Sam than it is simply a standard Spike Lee movie with the Son of Sam killings as a backdrop. Summer of Sam is more of a rerun of Do the Right Thing with Son of Sam standing in for a heatwave. The film it most resembles is The Boston Strangler (1968), which was not about the killings per se as it was about the social conditions surrounding the killings. David Berkowitz and the historical story take a second place to the usual Lee multi-stranded character stories. Certainly, Lee puts the sweaty psychosis up there on screen showing the shootings in graphic detail, quoting extensively from the Son of Sam letters and has scenes with the neighbours dog talking to Berkowitz, even if beefy and overweight Michael Badalucco bears little resemblance to the moon-faced Berkowitz in real life. However, there are frequent long stretches where Berkowitz doesnt even appear at all. Most of the film is about John Leguizamos compulsive infidelities and marriage breakdown as his wife finds out and Adrien Brodys life as a gay hustler. In particular, the principal John Leguizamo/Mira Sorvino story has nothing to do and never intersects with the David Berkowitz story. The fictional and real-life stories eventually come together at the end to make a moral point about prejudice and lynch mobs but not in a particularly profound way certainly, Spike Lee had more to say on the subject in Do the Right Thing. As much as it seems to be a film about the Son of Sam killings, Summer of Sam also joins a body of 1990s films dissecting the 1970s Dazed and Confused (1993), The Ice Storm (1997), Boogie Nights (1997) and tvs That 70s Show (1998-2006), with Lee charting the interesting period between the death of disco and the coming of punk.
One of the best players of the film is Mira Sorvino. She was a radiant delight in Woody Allens Mighty Aphrodite (1995) but has since languished in parts that have wasted her. Spike Lee has shown himself as one of the few male writer/directors capable of creating well-fleshed female characters and makes her the most sympathetic character in the film. Her characters arc from innocence to trying to work out what she is doing wrong in the bedroom to the well-written scenes where she stands up for herself and finally leaves show her acting ability off to great advantage. One scene where she emerges in red underwear and blonde wig positively sizzles.
Spike Lee later returned to genre material with the disappointing English-language remake of Oldboy (2013) and the well worthwhile vampire film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014). In genre material, Lee has also produced the African-American themed horror anthology Tales from the Hood (1995).
(Nominee for Best Actress (Mira Sorvino) at this sites Best of 1999 Awards).