Summer of Sam
|Summer of Sam|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Spike Lee|
|Produced by||Jon Kilik
|Written by||Victor Colicchio
|Music by||Terence Blanchard|
|Editing by||Barry Alexander Brown|
|Studio||40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks|
|Distributed by||Touchstone Pictures (USA)
Downtown Pictures (UK)
|Release date(s)||July 2, 1999|
|Running time||142 minutes|
Summer of Sam is the story of a group of people in New York City (particularly the Throgs Neck/Country Club section of The Bronx) in the summer of 1977, a time when the headlines were dominated by the Son of Sam serial killer case.
While the Son of Sam is terrorizing New York City, fear-driven residents of a tight-knit Italian-American neighborhood begin to suspect anyone who doesn't fit in with the crowd. The movie focuses on a pair of young couples: John Leguizamo plays Vincent (Vinny), an unfaithful hairdresser married to Dionna (played by Mira Sorvino), a hard-working waitress; and Adrien Brody as Ritchie, one of Vincent's closest friends and a newly-turned punk who dates a woman named Ruby (Jennifer Esposito); Ritchie leads a secret life dancing and selling himself for sex at a gay theatre.
A couple who interrupted Vinny having sex with Dionna's cousin are killed, and Vinny begins to believe the "Son of Sam" will come after him. Local mob boss Luigi (Ben Gazzara) decides to take it on himself to identify the killer. Vinny's friend Joey devises a list of suspects, mainly people he doesn't like; at the top of the list is Ritchie, mainly because of his flamboyant and strange lifestyle.
Summer temperatures top 100°F, and a blackout hits the five boroughs. Luigi attempts to calm and protect the neighborhood by holding a block party, while Joey leads a mob to defend the borders, beating anyone who tries to enter. Meanwhile, Vinny and Dionna try to go to CBGB to see Ritchie's band, but are intimidated by the punks in the crowd. They end up at an orgy party where they get stoned and have sex. Returning home, Vinny mocks Dionna, who leaves him.
Joey and his friends strongly suspect Ritchie is the killer; Vinny attempts to dissuade them, but fails. Vinny watches as Ritchie is beaten, only to be rescued by his stepfather, who reveals the Son of Sam was already captured in Yonkers. Unable to face Ritchie, Vinny walks away.
- Michael Badalucco as David Berkowitz / Son of Sam
- John Leguizamo as Vinny
- Adrien Brody as Ritchie
- Mira Sorvino as Dionna
- Jennifer Esposito as Ruby
- Michael Rispoli as Joey
- Saverio Guerra as Woodstock
- Brian Tarantina as Bobby
- Al Palagonia as Anthony
- Ken Garito as Brian
- Bebe Neuwirth as Gloria
- Patti LuPone as Helen
- Mike Starr as Eddie
- Anthony LaPaglia as Det. Petrocelli
- Roger Guenveur Smith as Det. Atwater
- Ben Gazzara as Luigi
- Arthur Nascarella as Mario
- Michael Imperioli as Midnite
- John Savage as Simon
- Spike Lee as John Jeffries
- John Turturro as Harvey the Dog (voice)
- Jimmy Breslin as Himself
The film was largely shot during the summer of 1998 and set in the Italian-American neighborhoods of Country Club, Morris Park and Throggs Neck sections of the Bronx which David Berkowitz terrorized in 1977, with some scenes filmed in Brownsville, Brooklyn. Specifically, Marie's Beauty Lounge, the salon where Vinny works, is a real, still active salon located on Morris Park Avenue, between Williamsbridge Road and Bronxdale Avenue. Most of Berkowitz's killings actually took place in Queens. The real CBGB was used, the band playing on stage, L.E.S. Stitches, is a contemporary punk band operating out of New York's Lower East Side.
Adrien Brody's nose was broken during the final climatic fight scene in which his character Richie is brutally beaten by his friends. After they are refused entry into Studio 54, the sex scene between Dionna and Vinny included more explicit shots in the original cut. This scene was edited after the MPAA threatened the film with an "NC-17" rating. Idina Menzel is known to have been in the film as Richie's girlfriend, but her scenes were cut before final release.
The word "fuck" or its derivatives are used 436 times in this 142-minute film, an average of 3.1 times per minute, on which the film is number three (number one being a documentary on the word).
The role of Dionna was originally written with Jennifer Esposito in mind. The role of Ruby was originally offered to Sarah Michelle Gellar. However a cast reshuffle ended with Mira Sorvino as Dionna and Jennifer Esposito as Ruby.
||This section may contain original research. (July 2012)|
Reviews of Summer of Sam were mixed. Kenneth Turan of the Los Angeles Times stated "Lee is a powerful filmmaker who certainly knows how to have an impact on an audience, but those who survive his ministrations are likely to wonder if in this case the battle was worth the bruises." Todd McCarthy of Variety thought that "this is the closest Lee has yet come to Scorsese territory!"
Summer of Sam has an overall approval rating of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes.
- Hempe, Mary Anne (April 22, 2011). "A Never-Mess-With-Adrien Brody Double Feature". POP Magazine. Retrieved September 21 2011.
- Berardinelli, James (1999). "Summer of Sam: A Film Review by James Berardinelli". Retrieved September 21 2011.
- "Movie Preview: Summer of Sam". Entertainment Weekly. April 19, 1999. Retrieved September 21 2011.
- Summer of Sam at the Internet Movie Database
- Summer of Sam at Rotten Tomatoes
- Summer of Sam at Box Office Mojo