SUMMER OF SAM
Directed by Spike Lee
Victor Colicchio & Michael Imperioli
I am really NOT a fan of Spike Lee. In fact, in many ways, his films turn me off. Not so, THE SUMMER OF SAM, which took me back to that special decade in New York
which was the 1970s, a decade in which the innocence of 20th century Americans ended.
Michael Badalucco, whom many know as "Jimmy" on the TV show, THE PRACTICE, gives a fair performace in the role of David Berkowitz.
It was the decade that saw the evolution of hippyism into the spiritualism that is the New Age. It was the decade of open sex best opitimized by PLATO'S RETREAT. It was the decade of EST. It was the decade of Jesus Freakism among Christians and Neo-Orthodoxy among Jews. It was a decade of promise. But it was also the decade that saw the eruption of violence during a summer blackout that paralyzed New York City for the second time in 20 years. Unlike the first New York City blackout in 1965 in which people drew closer together in the spirit of cooperation, this 1977 blackout tore the city apart with looting and mass hysteria. It was also the summer that witnessed the craziness that was in the mind of David Berkowitz who is forever engraved in the history of New York City as the Son of Sam.
Spike Lee uses the murders commited by the Son of Sam as a background to several stories about the lives of fictional New Yorkers which might very well have been based on reality. David Berkowitz did more than just end the lives of young people by bloodshed. He inspired a true aura of paranoia in the City That Never Sleeps that drove many people to act almost as out of control as he himself acted in his mad response to a neighbor's dog who ordered him to kill.
The movie is not so much a story about Berkowitz, or even so much about his victims (whose families feel victimized by this movie) as it is the story of a group of friends, spouses, and lovers whose very realtionships are torn apart by the murders. As if the afore-mentioned violence were not enough, Lee adds sequences of rioting and looting that was part of the summer blackout. For added spice, Lee also throws into the brew a story based on a rumor that went around during that mad time that the New York City Police Department secretly enlisted the aid of the Brooklyn based Mafia to help them find the Son of Sam.
The re-enactment of the capture of Berkowitz by New York City's Finest is very accurate as I persoanlly remember reading about it at the time.
The capture of David Berkowitz ended a nightmare for New York. Dramatically, it helped bring the decade of the 1970s to a close. What followed was the Reagan Era, ultra-conservatism, and AIDS, all of which killed far more people in spirit as well as in body than the Son of Sam ever could.
The direction and cinematography are adequate. The performances of the actors is of a slightly higher degree, sufficient to make the film interesting to watch. Regardless of the quality of the directing and acting, the film is highly emotional, actually gripping, for anyone who lived in New York City at that time and remembers it well. As a native New Yorker, that means I qualify. Out of towners who were not so closely involved with the Berkowitz madness may be less affected, and the movie may not hold as great a fascination for them. I know many New Yorkers who have refused to see the movie for the same reasons that many World War Two vets refuse to see SAVING PRIVATE RYAN. They do not wish to be vividly placed back into the situation.
John Leguizamo .... Vinny
Adrien Brody .... Ritchie
Mira Sorvino .... Dionna
Jennifer Esposito .... Ruby
Michael Rispoli .... Joe T
Saverio Guerra .... Woodstock
Brian Tarantina .... Bobby Del Fiore
Al Palagonia .... Anthony
Ken Garito .... Brian
Bebe Neuwirth .... Gloria
Patti LuPone .... Helen
Mike Starr (I) .... Eddie
Anthony LaPaglia .... Detective Lou Petrocelli
Roger Guenveur Smith.... Detective Curt Atwater
Ben Gazzara .... Luigi
Michael Badalucco .... David Berkowitz
Also Known As: Son of Sam, The (1998) (USA working title).
Rated R for strong graphic violence and sexuality, pervasive strong language and drug use.
Running time: 141 minutes.
Scarsdale, New York
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