Spike Lee's racial and political filmmaking bent is given the full treatment with this simmering exposé of racial tensions in a New York City neighborhood one scorching summer day. The film, written by Lee (and nominated for an Oscar), follows a group of racially diverse inhabitants from Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood as they spend their day trying to avoid the oppressive heat. These include African American pizza deliveryman Mookie (Lee), the racially sensitive Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), and the silent, boom-box-blasting Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn). Also thrown into the mix are Sal (an Oscar-nominated Danny Aiello), the Italian-American proprietor of Sal's Pizzeria, as well as his two sons, Pino (John Turturro) and Vito (Richard Edson), who hold completely opposing attitudes when it comes to race. After Buggin' Out tries to organize a boycott of Sal's because of the lack of racial diversity on his shop's Wall of Fame, the tensions explode in an act of senseless violence. Lee's film is an electric work of political entertainment that confronts sensitive racial issues head-on. He deftly blends humor and drama as well as using specific music to further amplify his theme (Public Enemy's song "Fight the Power" actually becomes the film's main catalyst for action). Boldly closing the film with opposing quotes from Malcolm X and Martin Luther King on the nature of race relations, Lee leaves it up to the viewer to decide if Mookie's actions were the correct ones. Aiello and Esposito are standouts in an all-star cast that includes Lee himself, his sister Joie, "discovery" Rosie Perez, and the married team of Ossie Davis and Ruby Dee. Always one to spark controversy, Lee's summer drama finds the filmmaker at the peak of his craft.
Spike Lee - African American director, DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
Shelton Jackson Lee - African American director, DO THE RIGHT THING (1989)
Ruby Dee - Actress, married to Ossie Davis
Ruby Ann Wallace - Actress, married to Ossie Davis
Rosie Perez - American actress/choreographer
John Turturro - American Actor/Director, BARTON FINK (1991)
Ernest R. Dickerson
Giancarlo Esposito - Actor
Bill Nunn - American Actor
Ossie Davis - Actor/Director/Screenwriter, husband of actress Ruby Dee
Bill Lee - American Composer/Director Spike Lee's Father
Danny Aiello - American Actor
In Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, disc jockey Mr. Señor Love Daddy wakes his morning listeners with soulful rhythms and prepares them for the sweltering heat of the summer's day. The nearby eatery and hangout is Sal's Famous Pizzeria. Young locals Buggin' Out, Radio Raheem, and pizza delivery guy Mookie view Sal's as a symbol of the successful economic and cultural assimilation of Italian Americans and as an oppressive economic force that profits at their expense. Existing racial tensions between merchant and community are exacerbated when Sal refuses to place pictures of prominent African Americans on his shop's Wall of Fame. When Radio Raheem and Buggin' Out confront Sal on his exclusionism, tempers fly and tragedy ensues. Spike Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING is an electrifying motion picture that remains one of the 1980s' most powerful films. In portraying a day in the life of several Brooklyn residents, Lee builds his story at a leisurely, comic pace, building to a violent climax that raises questions rather than answering them.
Theatrical release: June 30, 1989. Shot on location in Brooklyn, New York. DO THE RIGHT THING was added to the Library of Congress National Film Registry in 1999. Originally, Spike Lee wrote the part of Sal for Robert De Niro, who was unable to shoot the picture. After receiving a BA in Communication from Morehouse, one of the nation's few historically African American colleges, Lee attended New York University's Institute of Film and Television, where he received his MFA and distinguished himself with his work, winning a Student Academy Award for his film JOE'S BED-STUY BARBERSHOP: WE CUT HEADS. Lee went on to win critical acclaim for his independent feature SHE'S GOTTA HAVE IT--one of the first of its kind from an African American director, and the film that marked his commercial debut. Between film projects Lee has directed videos and commercials, notably, Nike Air Jordan ads. He occasionally teaches at Harvard University, and, like Woody Allen, he continues to make distinctive, provocative, and uniquely personal films. Lee formed his own production company, Forty Acres and a Mule.
"...Lee's best and boldest film....[He] gives the audiences the most vigorous shake-up they've had in years..." - 06/29/1989 Rolling Stone, p.27
"...DO THE RIGHT THING is aesthetically very sophisticated..." - 09/01/1989 Sight and Sound, p.281
"...Lee's film is stirring....It is floridly cinematic....This is a fascinating movie experience, confident in style..." - 06/30/1989 USA Today, p.1D
"...DO THE RIGHT THING has furious drive and muscle..." - 07/01/1989 Film Comment, p.67-9
"...DO THE RIGHT THING announces the coming-of-age of an important filmmaker with something urgent and uncomfortable to say....A stunning entertainment..." - 06/30/1989 Los Angeles Times, p.C1
"...Assured, confident....[Lee] takes this story, which sounds like grim social realism, and tells it with music, humor, color and exuberant invention. A lot of it is just plain fun..." - 06/01/2001 Chicago Sun-Times, p.33
"...A subtle and ambiguous work....The still undervalued Danny Aiello is superb..." - 07/01/2003 Total Film, p.137
4 stars out of 4 -- "Spike Lee's best film....It remains a beautifully shot, funny, smart, and thought-provoking masterpiece." - 06/30/2009 Premiere