Summer of Sam
Review by Ross Anthony

Here's one of those films that propose an ethical dilemma for me as a reviewer. Nearly flawless as a production, but not the kind of movie I enjoy watching. Nonetheless, I had some intention of giving "SOS" an "A-", but the 2 hour and 16 minute production ran about 16 minutes over. A surprisingly significant mar to an otherwise awesome feat of filmmaking.

"SOS" is a grizzly picture about how an Italian neighborhood in the Bronx reacts to the serial murders of the (unfortunately real life) infamous Son of Sam. It's not really about the killer himself, kind of like the Titanic wasn't really about a boat breaking in half (poor analogy, I know). Oh and unlike the later, not a very good date flick.

The main character, Vinnie, is rather seemly (not unlike most of the others). But Spike Lee, shows a great deal of directing and scripting prowess with the ability to make us actually care about people, we would probably keep our distance from in real life.

There's plenty of graphic violence as you'd expect, but also a surprising amount of rough sex. These are seldom love scenes ... if you get my drift.

So why do I praise Spike? Picture-perfect diaglogue is evenly and realistically dispersed among multiple actors. Also, these actors give fantastic performances, especially Vinnie (John Leguizamo) -- you've got to blame that kind of thing on the director. Lastly, save for the aforementioned needless 16 minutes, the film progresses its tension level smoothly from beginning to end. There are also the other masterfully crafted elements like multi-dimensional characters that grow.

So why don't I recommend it? Bluntly ... it's no fun. It's a downer. It started me resonating with an uncomfortable unsettling feeling that continued 10 or 12 hours after the movie. Though, Spike would probably pat himself on the back and shout out "mission accomplished" at my last remark -- I don't find it amusing. In my view, the only positively redeeming worth of the film lies in Vinnie's painfully learned lesson. But, it's a lesson to which I'm hip. I didn't need 2+ hours of discomfort for it to have made an impression; however, those rougher and tougher than myself may.

Starring John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, plus.
Directed by Spike Lee.
Screenplay by Victor Colicchio, Michael Imperioli and Spike Lee.
Produced by Jon Kilik at Touchstone.
Rated R.


Copyright © 1999 Ross Anthony, currently based in Los Angeles, has scripted and shot documentaries, music videos, and shorts in 35 countries across North America, Europe, Africa and Asia. For more reviews visit:

chili4 special olympians
power5 ra hforh radiop

Last Modified: Saturday, 16-Sep-2006 07:54:36 PDT