|Do The Right Thing (20th Anniversary Edition) (1989)|
|Written by Noah Fleming|
|Friday, 10 July 2009|
The film takes place in Brooklyn and is heralded as one of Spike Lee's best productions. I cannot condone that notion. In "Do The Right Thing" we get introduced to a plethora of characters that all seem to come and go from the story. While each character plays its role in the overall plot, that plot is unresolved. The film is supposed to be a mark on racism and human relations. Instead, Lee has put the characters in the middle of a petty dispute that is blown out of proportion. And if that wasn't bad enough, Lee puts Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X right in the middle. I sincerely believe that the human rights activists would be outraged at having their name slandered by such violent filth.
The film is centered around a black community in Brooklyn that has a few Italians running a pizza joint. The Italians are doing nothing but providing a service to their community. They have been doing so for 25 years. Then out of the blue, comes a local black kid that eats at the pizzeria three times a day that now complains about the art on the wall. Being an Italian joint the wall is littered with 8x10s of Italian celebrities. This kid however wants some brothers on the wall as they live in a black neighborhood. Excuse me, but last time I checked, a restaurant owner has the right to decorate his place the way he wants, as long as it is no crude or offensive. Sal (Danny Aiello), the owner argues a bit with the kid and eventually asks him to leave as he is disturbing the other customers.
The kid takes this event and turns it into a fiasco. He goes around the neighborhood trying to organize a boycott of Sal's pizzeria. Eventually finding Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) and Smiley, two individuals that also had their egos hurt at Sal's place. Come the end of the film they storm in the doors of Sal's joint after closing and start a ruckus. Look, I'm not racist, but I would probably react the same way as Sal. You don't come into my establishment blasting "music" coming from an overgrown radio (which doesn't hold water anymore as it is so outdated). Not to mention, he was already warned earlier in the day to not come into the restaurant with the "music" going. By the way, there is such a thing as over-using a song in a film. Public Enemy's "Fight the Power" is so distracting that I want to pull my hair out and if I ever hear that song again in my life it will be too soon.
Mookie (Spike Lee) is a delivery boy at the pizzeria. He is hated by Pino (John Turturro), son of Sal. Still, Mookie is treated very decently by Sal (for being Italian). When it comes down to it, Mookie doesn't serve any purpose in the film other than to incite a riot at the end of the film and participate in perhaps one of the worst endings to a film in cinema history (ranking up there with dropping the jewel in the ocean at the end). After smashing Sal's window and starting the riot, he has the nerve to come back the next morning and demand his pay for the week. Excuse me, but you just broke a window worth more than you week's pay, as well as caused the total destruction of Sal's joint. And guess what, Sal gives him the money and all is cool. I'm sorry but human decency only goes as far as the effort you put into it. There is no way you are receiving respect if you disrespect somehow. To try and nullify the unstable moments of this film Lee puts two quotes at the end by King and X. Sorry, but it doesn't work. It doesn't fix the fact that the film is complete nonsense. We get it. There is racism in the world. But let's face it, the Italians did nothing wrong in this situation. The community blew everything out of proportion. Did someone die in the riot? Yes, but was it intentional? Maybe. Fact remains that police brutality had nothing to do with Sal's place.
The film succeeds on the level that it gets people talking about it. The love/hate aspect of the plot is buried by the ridiculous actions of the characters. The amount of nonsense screaming by groups on screen is insanely large and causes a major headache.
Bottom line: This film leaves the important issues on the backburner to be overshadowed by petty arguments. In addition, I have major problems with any film that casually throws the "N-Word" around throughout the runtime.
While the film is an utter stinker, the video quality is amazing. For 20 years old, the film pops on the screen. The original visual style intended by the filmmakers appears to have been altered. Nevertheless, the scorching heat is still nicely represented by the red and orange hues. It works better than the original yellow hue. The details are not as sharp I would like. A few long distance soft shots creep up. Colors a bold and vibrant, always popping from the screen. With all the reds used in the film it is nice to not see any chroma noise or bleeding in the image. There is a layer of grain covering the image, but it is much preferred than digital noise reduction. Edge enhancement does not seem to be an issue. However, there is some banding here and there in the image. Most impressive are the black levels. Objects and costumes are rich and very inky. Shadow delineation could be improved slightly, but as it stands it is above average. This disc offers are very strong upgrade from the standard DVD.
The audio is a little less impressive. Still, it is far above average for the age of the film. We are presented with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 audio track. Originally the film was mixed and mastered in Dolby Stereo. I applaud the effort of creating the 5.1 mix, but ultimately it fails. The effects that pop up in the surround channels are very matrixed. No fine detail or distinct placement can be heard in the surround channels. Also, for such a crowded street in Brooklyn there is hardly any ambience in the rear channels. The dialogue is mainly located in the center channel, although random voices pop up panned to the front left and right. The LFE channel only appears during the playing of the Public Enemy song. There isn't much in the way of dynamic range and frequency response is typical of a late 1980s film, limited in the crystal clear frequencies. The dialogue has no separation. Anytime there is more than one person speaking, which is pretty much the entire film, forget about understanding anything. Even during normal dialogue the intelligibility is sometimes lacking.
Most of the special features on the Blu-ray are ported over from the previous standard DVD release. However, there are some new features for the 20th anniversary edition of the film. First there is a new feature audio commentary by Spike Lee. This commentary is upbeat and a good commentary of Lee reminiscing. The original audio commentary by Spike Lee, Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, Production Designer Wynn Thomas and Actor Joie Lee is also included. Also new to the Blu-ray is "'Do The Right Thing:' 20 Years Later." This featurette runs over a half an hour and contains numerous interviews. The other exclusive to the Blu-ray is a collection of deleted and extended scenes. These don't offer anything to improve the film. "Behind the Scenes" contains personal footage shot by Spike Lee. "Making 'Do The Right Thing'" is an over one hour documentary about the entire process of making of the film. It is a bit exhausting. "Editor Barry Brown" is a simply interview. "The Riot Sequence" is a storyboard section of the specific sequence in the film. "Cannes, 1989" contains press conference footage. The disc is also equipped with BD-Live functionality.
The ultimate bottom line is: the disc is awesome, the movie is beyond poor. That is my take and I am sticking to it. Note: none of the views expressed in this review are based on race. They are solely based on human decency and the film's place in cinema history.