Summer of Sam

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Summer of Sam
Summer Of Sam (movie).jpg
Theatrical release poster
Directed by Spike Lee
Produced by Jon Kilik
Spike Lee
Written by Victor Colicchio
Michael Imperioli
Spike Lee
Starring John Leguizamo
Adrien Brody
Mira Sorvino
Jennifer Esposito
Anthony LaPaglia
Music by Terence Blanchard
Cinematography Ellen Kuras
Edited by Barry Alexander Brown
Distributed by Buena Vista Pictures
Release dates
  • July 2, 1999 (1999-07-02)
Running time
142 minutes[1]
Country United States
Language English
Budget $22 million
Box office $19,288,130

Summer of Sam is a 1999 American crime thriller film that recounts the Son of Sam serial murders. It was directed and produced by Spike Lee and stars John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, and Jennifer Esposito.


It is the summer of 1977 and New York City lives in fear of the serial killer Son of Sam who has shot several women in parked cars. In the Throgs Neck section of the Bronx hair dresser Vinny is married to waitress Dionna although he continues to carry on affairs with multiple women. One night, Dionna and Vinny are returning from a date when they pass by the police at one of the crime scenes. Vinny realizes that he was near the victims earlier that night while having sex with Dionna's cousin, and that the killer may have seen him.

Vinny is approached by Ritchie, an old friend. Ritchie has become part of the punk rock scene and his unusual dress and hairstyle concerns Vinny and others in the neighborhood. The only one who seems accepting of Ritchie is Ruby, Vinny's half-sister, who thinks he looks good. Ruby is initially shocked when she learns that Ritchie makes money by dancing and prostituting himself at a gay theater but the two become closer.

As the Son of Sam killings continue, tension rises in the neighborhood. Detective Petrocelli of the New York Police Department asks local mobster Luigi to help find the killer. Luigi and his men begin assembling a list of possible suspects. A group of men in the neighborhood also make a list of possible suspects, including Ritchie who they regard as "a freak".

Ruby joins a band with Ritchie and they get a gig at CBGB. They invite Vinny and Dionna but the couple are intimidated by the punks at the club and leave. Vinny and Dionna try to get into Studio 54 but are denied and instead end up at Plato's Retreat where they engage in an orgy. On the ride home, Vinny berates his wife for her participation in the orgy, calling her a "freaky slut". Dionna tells Vinny that she knows about his prior infidelities including his having sex with her cousin. She angrily storms off and goes to stay at her parent's house.

After another gig, Ritchie sees Vinny sitting in his car outside CBGB and sneaks up on him, pretends to be Son of Sam and startles Vinny. Returning to the neighborhood an increasingly tired and unstable Vinny meets with Dionna and apologizes to her, promising never to cheat again. However, she doesn't believe him and says she wants a divorce. The police publish an eyewitness sketch of the murderer and some of the local men think it looks like Ritchie. Vinny, distraught over his impending divorce, gets high on coke. A group of local men come by his house asking for his help to lure Ritchie into a trap so they can deliver him to the police. Vinny reluctantly goes along with it.

Unknown to Vinny and the men, the police have arrested David Berkowitz for the shootings. Vinny goes to Ritchie's place and finds Ritchie and Ruby there. He lures Ritchie out of the house on the pretext of talking about his marriage but changes his mind and warns him to run. The other men emerge and attack Ritchie as Ruby look on horrified. Ritchie's stepfather, Eddie, comes out of the house and holds the attackers at gunpoint. When they say that Ritchie is the Son of Sam, he tells them that the killer has already been captured. Unable to face Ritchie, Vinny walks away.



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.

Brody's nose was broken during the final climatic fight scene in which his character Richie is brutally beaten by his friends.[2] 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.[3]

The role of Dionna was originally written with Jennifer Esposito in mind. The role of Ruby was originally offered to Sarah Michelle Gellar.[citation needed] However a cast reshuffle ended with Mira Sorvino as Dionna and Esposito as Ruby.[4]


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." [5] Todd McCarthy of Variety thought that "this is the closest Lee has yet come to Scorsese territory!"[6]

Summer of Sam has an overall approval rating of 50% on Rotten Tomatoes, with the site's consensus stating: "Spike Lee offers intense visuals but his storytelling feels crowded and overambitious."[7] On Metacritic, the film has a 67/100 rating, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[8]


  1. ^ "SUMMER OF SAM (18)". Downtown Pictures. British Board of Film Classification. August 27, 1999. Retrieved November 15, 2013. 
  2. ^ Hempe, Mary Anne (April 22, 2011). "A Never-Mess-With-Adrien Brody Double Feature". POP Magazine. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  3. ^ Berardinelli, James (1999). "Summer of Sam: A Film Review by James Berardinelli". Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  4. ^ "Movie Preview: Summer of Sam". Entertainment Weekly. April 19, 1999. Retrieved September 21, 2011. 
  5. ^
  6. ^
  7. ^ Summer of Sam at Rotten Tomatoes Retrieved November 15, 2013
  8. ^ Summer of Sam at Metacritic Retrieved November 15, 2013

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