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New York is never safe, but in the sweltering summer of '77, it became even more paranoid than usual, when a serial killer began indiscriminate shooting with a mighty .44 revolver, brazenly defying all attempts to capture him. Christened Son of Sam by the newspapers that breathlessly reported the killings, the murders claoked New York in a frenzy of fear and suspicion: it could be anybody, this killer, even your lover. This is the backdrop for the story of a group of friends, neighbours, lovers and couples in the Bronx that summer, all affected by the paranoia. The focus of the story rests on the roguish and unfaithful Vinny (John Leguizamo) and his heartbroken wife, Dionna (Mira Sorvino).

"Here's a chirpy and much needed reminder of the paranoia that fills New York, especially in summer! We meet a group of New Yorkers who are garrulous, selfish, greedy and many of them are dense to boot - all behaving badly. This makes it tough for an audience to get closely involved, but Spike Lee isn't too interested in being pleasing; he wants to jolt and jar us into seeing his characters fizzing in the summer of Sam like flies in the mozzie light. His central character, Vinny (John Luguziamo) is relentlessly despicable as well as stupid. His buddies are either dumb or dumber, with the exception of Ritchie (Adrien Brody) and Dionna (Mira Sorvino), who are at least vulnerable - but they are the victims in this story. As for the sex scenes, they resemble porn because they are just that: sex scenes. It's as if Lee wants to emphasise that he's still the enfant terrible on the Hollywood block. His defenders will argue that those sex scenes are a function of his characters; and it's true. But how they are shot - the minute nuances of timing and choice of shots - tells us more. Lee's strenuous efforts here (too many non sequiturs that are meant to be subplots) are rife with the risk that he be seen as manipulative or self indulgent. Or both. The film ends up noisy and confronting with a rather threadbare core which barely throws new light on the human condition in general or on the summer of 77 in New York in particular. As for Spike Lee as the tv reporter, all I can say is it's good for a giggle (especially for his many fans) but it's far from a credible performance. Still 'n all, Summer of Sam redeems itself from total banality in my eyes by its pervasive and observant handling of the more interesting relationship issues between friends and between spouses."
Andrew L. Urban

"Summer Of Sam is Spike Lee's best film to date. This powerful depiction of a city slowly combusting under the pressure of sweltering heat and a seemingly unstoppable psychopath is tour de-force filmmaking from a director totally in command of the medium. What's so impressive Lee's refusal to allow the Son Of Sam to dominate proceedings, opting instead for the killer's descent into madness to act as a metaphor for the breakdown of the city itself. You can almost feel the heat as Lee juggles the elements and brings them to boiling point over this long hot summer. Performances down to bit parts are outstanding, with John Leguizamo taking top honours as the cheating husband whose close call with the killer initiates an almost Shakespearian fall from grace. Mira Sorvino turns in her best dramatic work to date as his wife who desperately wants to believe it's her fault the marriage is in trouble and Adrien Brody looks like star material as the odd man out in the old neighbourhood. Summer Of Sam throbs with sweaty energy from its introduction by legendary New York newsman Jimmy Breslin to the finale on a white hot night of hate. It thunders along ferociously, with some of the most effective musical montages we've seen in a long time and only Spike Lee's on-screen appearance as a semi-professional tv journalist jars as a flaw in an otherwise towering achievement."
Richard Kuipers

"How does Spike Lee do it? How can he make films that are among the best we've seen and then go on to make this? Summer of Sam is awful. Turgid. Way too long. Boring. Downright depressing. It's a film that stays with you long after you've seen it - but for all the wrong reasons. I came out of the screening seeing only ugliness all around me. It had a way of colouring my view of humanity that was most unwelcome. Yes, I know that we do not live in a world animated by Disney. I know there is plenty of ugliness around. But this film presents us with only ugly. The characters have no redeeming features whatsoever. They react to violence and madness with violence and prejudice. Yes Spike, we get your point. We understand that under pressure people behave like animals. We know the media can drive a story into a frenzy. We know drugs and sex can ruin people's lives. We know some community's say fuck two out of every three words. But please. Two and a half hours? Spare us. The publicity notes tell us that Lee encouraged the actors to improvise. Perhaps this was the mistake. It's all so indulgent. Mira Sorvino, Adrien Brody, and Patti LuPone give strong performances but the rest of the cast are way out of control, none more so than John Leguizamo in the lead. By all means go see this film if you're feeling the world is just too nice a place. Otherwise, wait for Lee's next effort."
Lee Gough

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CAST: John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Michael Rispoli, Saverio Guerra, Brain Tarantino, Al Palagonia, Ken Garito, Bebe Neuwirth, Patti LuPone, Mike Starr, Anthony LaPaglia, Ben Gazarra, Joe Lisi, James Reno, John Savage, Spike Lee


PRODUCER: Spike Lee, John Kilik

SCRIPT: Michael Imperioli, Spike Lee, Victor Colicchio


EDITOR: Barry Alexander Brown

MUSIC: Terence Blanchard


RUNNING TIME: 236 minutes


AUSTRALIAN RELEASE: November 18, 1999

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