Summer Of Sam

6.72 h 22 min1999R
SundanceTV Presents: In the summer of 1977, a serial killer who called himself Son of Sam held New York City in terror.
Spike Lee
John Alberto LeguizamoAdrien BrodyMira Sorvino
English [CC]
Audio languages
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Spike LeeJon Kilik
Touchstone Pictures
R (Restricted)
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4.5 out of 5 stars

1772 global ratings

  1. 75% of reviews have 5 stars
  2. 13% of reviews have 4 stars
  3. 6% of reviews have 3 stars
  4. 3% of reviews have 2 stars
  5. 3% of reviews have 1 stars
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Top reviews from the United States

Allen Garfield's #1 fan.Reviewed in the United States on March 13, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
A Spike Lee Joint - made from ditch weed.
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Aging provocateur, Spike Lee tried and failed to rile up New York's Italian American community with "Summer of Sam," a savage portrait of a sorry quintet of Bronx-bred goombahs. This from the guy who said that he, instead of Norman Jewison, should direct "Malcolm X," because he was black and knew the subtleties of African American society.

So why didn't he ask Martin Scorsese to direct "Summer of Sam"? Given the sensitivity he shows to Italian American culture, perhaps he feels he's learned enough about the subject from making his pizza commercials.

Written by Victor Colicchio and Michael Imperioli (Chris, from The Sopranos) along with the director, the script recalls Lee's moronic urban parable "Do the Right Thing," but this bleak, sluggishly paced effort never achieves that film's semblance of clarity. Hobbled by a multiplicity of narrative lines and superfluous, often stereotypical characters, the movie suffers from a lack of both focus and passion. It never catches fire. The cinematography is ugly and ghastly - the same DP who helped Spike ruin the classic Richard Price novel, Clockers.

Set in the summer of 1977, it's an obstinately paean to the city as pressure cooker. But for all the sweating and sordid sex, it never really blows its top. Gotham sizzles under a record heat wave, but people stay inside for fear of encountering Son of Sam. Driven by the neighbor's dog and his own demons, blubbery loner David Berkowitz has begun slaughtering lovers and brunettes with shoulder-length hair.

"Summer of Sam," however, is not about Berkowitz, though he is frequently seen in action or banging his head against the walls. It's about the serial killer's effect on the lives of five obnoxious dimwits from the Country Club section of the Bronx, where Berkowitz's first victims were discovered.

Despite the uptown moniker, the crummy neighborhood is home to loudmouthed losers like Vinny (John Leguizamo), a randy hairdresser; Ritchie (Adrien Brody), a hustler and the worst live sex performer; Joe T. (Michael Rispoli), a dimebag drug dealer; Woodstock (Saverio Guerra), nondescript bully No. 1; and Brian (Ken Garito), nondescript bully No. 2.

Vinny, a little man in Cuban heels, has some sort of Madonna-w**** complex (the eye-talian kind) is incapable of sleeping with his wife, Dionna (Mira Sorvino). He is just as incapable of being faithful to her, and she pretends not to know about his philandering. After a close brush with Berkowitz, Vinny vows to be true . . . until the next opportunity presents itself.

Meanwhile, Ritchie, his best friend, returns to the neighborhood after a year and a half in the Village (NYC punk was birthed on the lower east side. Where was the fact checker?) He irks his old pals with a pretentious British accent, punk fashion sense (more '79 than '77) and an expanded view of the universe. Vinny accepts him, but the other lunkheads come to see Ritchie as a menacing outsider.

While hanging out at their favorite diner, the paisanos form a list of Son of Sam suspects that includes the parish priest, Reggie Jackson and Vinny. These idiots are sometimes funny, and often irksome and vicious when their turf is threatened. Ben Gazzara, the local don, supplies the vigilantes with all the pasta they can eat and arms them with baseball bats. The old Twilight Zone handled this trope much more effectively in the episode, "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street."

Lee's reputation rests in part on the layered, nuanced black characters he has created, however dubious that claim is. This film has only one, a detective. The other supporting characters are all too often drawn from Italian American stereotypes. Many of them, like Gazzara and his goons, are less authentic than Paul Newman's red sauce. ( Ooops, Gravy.)

The always awful Leguizamo, on the other hand, is wholly believable (not a compliment) in his first starring dramatic role, and manages to reveal nothing within Vinny's sorry character. Sorvino is unconvincing as a naive woman willing to try anything – including an orgy at a swing club– to save her marriage(!) Also unimpressive too are Brody ("The Pianist"), as the vulnerable Ritchie, and Jennifer Esposito, as the town pump who becomes Ritchie's "girl."

"Summer of Sam" is sordid, in the worst sense of the word - because it's phony and contrived, it is completely without compassion or concern for its central characters. There are (a few) scenes that sing, moments that soar and style to spare - the montage set to The Who's "We Won't Get Fooled Again' is the best part. It's the many minutes in between.

Also features Spike Lee's worst cameo/performance - a reporter who "acts white" for laffs. Indeed, it is a cruel caracture of ABCs trail-blazing reporter, John Johnson. Worse, still, A "Big Momma's House"/ Tyler Perry in-drag-type even goofs on him. The point, exactly?

For anyone interested, check out the documentary "NY77: The Coolest Year in H***". It's free all over the place online and vastly superior. It covers via archival footage and interviews with people who were there. Covered are: CBGB/punk, the swing club (and Al Goldstein's hangout) Plato's Retreat, Berkowitz, Times Square, the black out, Reggie Jackson...everything in this film and more that I can remember....

KL bluray looks... OK. Subtitles included - you'll need them as the music drowns out the moronic dialogue - In all fairness, great soundtrack. A presumably awful commentary by Lee is included.
8 people found this helpful
Texas GunsafeReviewed in the United States on November 11, 2020
1.0 out of 5 stars
This movie was so bad, I couldn't watch more than an hour of it.
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1) The dialog is atrocious.
2) The story was pitiful, akin to something a child would write.
3) The characters are so stereotypical and hollow it's funny... well, it isn't, it's sad, actually.
4) When the movie was being made, there was already new information that the NYPD was investigating, such as a satanic cult was doing these things.
5) David Berkowitz was made to look ,like a complete, out of control, psychopath who could barely function on a human level, which was so far from actual fact it's not even funny.
6) Berkowitz was in his mid 20's during this period but clearly, he is shown to be a lot older.
7) The acting was HORRIBLE.
8) Nothing in this movie was based on fact. For one example, a revolver that fires seven rounds? I know they make them but a Charter Bulldog .44 Special? I don't think so.
9) The first people killed were in The Bronx from what i remember reading but in this movie, seven have already been killed.
10) Only seven people were killed and about seven (maybe more) were hurt but recovered. The movie makes it look like Berkowitz kill a lot more.
11) In case you haven't guess, this movie was real bad?

I was hoping for some kind of movie that revolved around David Berkowitz's affect on a small neighborhood because I was 11 when he was caught and I lived in Queens, instead, I got a film that seemed like a 13 tear old kid made it and hired his 10 year old friends to act in it. I mean, this movie was BAD, like REAL bad. But hey, if that's what you like, than this movie is for you. As for me, I want my $20 back.
4 people found this helpful
J. AlazrueiReviewed in the United States on March 2, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
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So many people missed this story when it went to theaters. I saw it then and I have seen it two more times!The true story of a serial killer is wound around the so right on with the fear it brought and the blame for the killings is wrongly surmised that the killings were done by one of the neighborhood's group of young adults. All the prejudice spins out of control as the story shows the case of the killer is affecting people's fear and actions.It continues with side by side moments where real tv reports and newspaper headlines makes the people of the neighborhood where this occurs are run, with short snips of tthe actual psychotic murderer slips out into the night and randomly attacks couples sitting in cars talking after fun nights of partying in the disco scene or punk music performances in small concerts begins to start the "punk" scene in NYC.
Flashbacks of the killer in his tormented pain with irrational thoughts in between music dancing and lines at CBGB's to get in for a punk band to play, all swirl to come together as the detectives are getting closer and the neighborhood "punk" rocker,comes out with typical punk garb and a new mohawk. This film shows underlying prejudices and hate that the fear and anxiety and unfair accusations actually bring out as wrongful and dangerous assumptions as people suspect others in their neighborhood that stand out because they are different .As the police messages from the murderer, tension rises within the whole community, and then through NYC's burroughs because of the horrific murders. As the music keeps playing between the punk concert and the disco dancing, paranoia sets in and some as sort of wonder if certain people are the serial killer and it becomes so strong that it is decided who the murderer is. The prejudices, the unfair assumptions, the homophobia, the drugs, the disrespect and taking advantage of women,the club music and dancing, the ignorance and sad mistakes and the way the whole series of events in this film; all tie together to display a true portrait of NYC neighborhoods in the end of the1970's. Finally, the killer is caught making relief the largest emotion. As people started to carry on and think that once again things are normal-that it is over, they start to realize that foolishness, anger and blame on close friends has caused broken faith and a realization that because of ignorance, because of how friends and family were treated wrongly, their lives will never be the same. That just like the much bigger thing of murdering others, mending relationships and building trust again may just never come true.
This film was great, Spike Lee got the whole situation down pat. Blending the major psychotic true story, along with news flashes from the time, along with the people that try to go back to before and put their lives back together.
The story shows how these serial murders have changed things and some may not ever gain back the love or the close friendships that were there before the first gunshot.
9 people found this helpful
GTFReviewed in the United States on June 12, 2021
4.0 out of 5 stars
If Oliver Stone Directed "Do the Right Thing"
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Since, arguably, '77 was my coming of age summer I remember it vividly. And since that coming of age took place at the beaches on the south shore of Long Island during the days and at the cross over new wave / disco clubs dotting Nassau, Queens and the occasional trip to 54 at nights ... "SoS" while a mediocre film at best holds a special place in my heart.

If you're a NYer from this era it's well worth your time.
One person found this helpful
Darryl WrenReviewed in the United States on June 5, 2017
5.0 out of 5 stars
Summer of 77 in NYC!
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Very underrated movie in my of my favorite Spike Lee "joints"...very well acted and written in a way to make all of the stories and characters interesting! I remember following the 'real life' story in the summer of 77 (I live in Chicago) of "The Son of Sam" who supposedly got his 'marching orders' from a dog named "Harvey" who was owned by his neighbor who's name was"Sam"! Told in a very realistic 'cuts across all racial lines' approach that I found refreshing...for those who may not fully know the story it's a good buy!
9 people found this helpful
Walter J. MaslowskiReviewed in the United States on July 19, 2020
4.0 out of 5 stars
A great book full of nostalgia especially if you grew up in 1970s New York City.
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Reading this info-packed tome will take you back to the dark days of 1977 NYC. There's information here that I guarantee you didn't know, even if you read the Daily News back then. Did you know that Howard Cosell didn't actually say "The Bronx is burning."? That police officers recall ESU trucks tossing out boxes of ammunition, but the official report states that no shots were fired during the looting triggered by the blackout? This is a great read that bounces among the many subjects covered but remains a coherent account of that crazy year. I didn't rate it five stars only because I felt there were a little too many pages devoted to Reggie Jackson, but if you're a die-hard Yankees fan that may be a plus. A great book for New Yorkers and those that love, and even those that hate, New York City. The phrase 'You can't make this stuff up." has never been truer.
One person found this helpful
zooniReviewed in the United States on April 18, 2011
5.0 out of 5 stars
Summertime in the NYC
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I like how this film doesn't center the whole plot around the serial killer Son of Sam. It's also a story of some of the lives of New Yorkers who were traumatized by the endless murder spree that terrozied a nation. I love how Spike Lee portrays the over the top personalities of typical New Yorkers, especially Italians. I grew up around people like this so it's ammusing to me, and reminds me somewhat of my own family. I love Adrain Brody's character, Richie. I thought he did an amazing job. The acting by John Leguizamo and Mira Sorvino were also intense. There were some amazing scenes with both of them that keep you mesmorized. Even though this is considered a thriller, there are some comedic scenes that cracked me up. I'm a big fan of Spike Lee. He captures New York life with an uncanny science. Summer of Sam is up there with some of his best works.
4 people found this helpful
JamieReviewed in the United States on June 10, 2013
5.0 out of 5 stars
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I lived in NY when all of this happened. The night of the blackout was my daughter's 2nd Birthday. It took 10 hours to see if the lights would come back on, they didn't we had to walk up 10 flights of stairs to get to our apt in the pitch black. No water no toilet. I remeber all of this like it was yesterday. The looting, Son of Sam.
I remember now that I live in Ca, when the Towers got hit, my Boss @ the time said to me, "there's going to be alot on crime tonight in NY" I was so insulted!I knew in my Heart of Hearts that NY would stand together! & We Did! I LOVE NY! & this movie as dark as it is was the example of life in The City!
8 people found this helpful
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