Projections - Movie Reviews

Summer of Sam

Summer of Sam is a Spike Lee film.  There are few directors that demand that level of recognition.  His work is not always unique but each film has surprises and his mark as the guiding force.

Michael Badalucco (The Practice) plays Son of Sam, a murder who killed couples in parked cars during 1977 in New York.  Known as the .44-caliber killer he terrorized the city with a steady streak of grisly slayings.  It was a long hot summer; Reggie Jackson hit three homers in game six against the Dodgers, punk rock was strong, Studio 54 was a top draw and Plato's Retreat was the symbol of sexual freedom.

Lee's Summer of Sam is best when concentrating on the killer and most dramatic during the vicious murders of young couples.  Most of the time however is spent with Vinny (John Leguizamo), Ritchie (Adrien Brody), Dionna (Mira Sorvino), Ruby (Jennifer Esposito), Joey T (Michael Rispoli), Woodstock (Saverio Guerra) and Bobby (Brian Tarantina).  They hang around the end of a dead end street selling and buying drugs.  Thirty-something and without direction, Legluizamo has no feminine side remaining from To Wong Foo: Thanks For Everything, Julie Newmar; his desire is to have each of the women in the neighborhood as often as possible.  Sorvino is his dedicated wife who is determined to please him in every way possible.  She is the most emphatic character and makes the most of her role.

Using the paranoia and basic prejudices in the neighborhood, the dead enders search for the killer.  Each one names a possible suspect and attempts to prove the guilt of their target.  Leguizamo, during a tryst with his wife's cousin, is moments away from becoming Sam's next victim when he is interrupted by another couple who drive him from the parking locating.  The new couple become victims.

Lee parallels the degeneration of the dead end folks with the acceleration of the Son of Sam story.  As Sam becomes more and more active Leguizamo's Vinny takes more drugs and cheats more and more.  Sam and Vinny are caught at about the same time.  Sam by the police, Vinny by his wife and drug habit.

What is billed as Son of Sam is an excuse to explore the changing mores of the seventies.  Everyone gets into the act.  Ritchie does tricks with men; Vinny has sex with his boss, Gloria (Bebe Neuwirth) and even drags his wife into Plato's Retreat where they have sex with multiple partners.  Joey T sells drugs while cuddling his young daughter.  Even Patti LuPone removes her blouse.

Summer of Sam


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