Do the Right Thing (1989)



Do the Right Thing was Lee's third film (following She's Gotta Have It and School Daze), his best film by far and the film that is still painfully relevant to the current cultural moment

 The film confronts racism head-on, story is told clearly with unflinching attitude that is rarely seen in modern American cinema. Lee does not pander to political correctness, nor does he preach or take sides. He introduces a group of characters, sets up the story, then allows events to play out. 


The story takes place over a 24-hour period on the hottest day of the summer in the Bedford-Stuyvesant area of Brooklyn. We are introduced to a number of the locals, and follow their activities throughout the day. There's Sal (Danny Aiello), the owner of Sal's Famous Pizzeria, a community establishment for 25 years. Sal built the business with his own hands, and has served two generations of customers. 

His sons, the hot-tempered Pino (John Turturro) and the more easy-going Vito (Richard Edson), work with him. Pino is an unabashed racist who spends as much time spewing profanities about the mostly-black clientele as making pizzas. Vito, on the other hand, is color-blind. 


Mookie (Spike Lee himself) is a  young man who works as Sal's pizza delivery boy. His girlfriend, Tina (Rosie Perez), cares for his toddler son. 
One of Mookie's friends, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito), is on a political crusade to force Sal to put pictures of black men on his "American Italian Wall." 
Another, Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), spends the day wandering around the neighborhood playing a boom box at maximum volume. 
"I have been given only a few filmgoing experiences in my life to equal the first time I saw “Do the Right Thing.” Most movies remain up there on the screen. Only a few penetrate your soul. In May of 1989 I walked out of the screening at the Cannes Film Festival with tears in my eyes. Spike Lee had done an almost impossible thing. He'd made a movie about race in America that empathized with all the participants. He didn't draw lines or take sides but simply looked with sadness at one racial flashpoint that stood for many others"
  
There are really no heroes or villains in the film. There is even a responsible cop, who screams “that's enough!” as another cop chokes Radio with his nightstick. And perhaps the other cop is terrified because he is surrounded by a mob and the pizzeria is on fire. On and on, around and around, black and white, fear and suspicion breed and grow. Because we know all of the people and have spent all day on the street, we feel as much grief as anger. Radio Raheem is dead. And Sal, who has watched the neighborhood's kids grow up for 25 years and fed them with his pizza, stands in the ruins of his store.