S.O.S. (Summer of Sam)

January 28, 2012 7 Min Read

Review by: Fusion3600

Plot: What’s it about?

During the summer of 1977, the Son of Sam killer terrorized New York City. Now, while not everyone was attacked by that killer, the concept that this man was running around murdering people was in the back of everyone’s mind. This movie deals not so much with the killer, but the effect the whole “there’s a serial killer in town” vibe had on people and their relationships. Well, it kind of deals with that, but more on the movie’s make up later. In addition to the killings, other factors lay pressure on the New York residents as well, such as record heat and blackouts. In a small, Italian neighborhood, we find our characters, and the movie begins. The people in the neighborhood gossip like any other neighborhood folk, and they surmise that the Son of Sam is someone on their block, or at least, in their area. The main focus of the film is on the relationship between Vinny (John Leguizamo) and Dionna (Mira Sorvino). Vinny likes to dabble outside of his wedding vows for sexual release, and of course, it has an adverse effect on his marriage. Within this tiny social area, the bonds between people are breaking apart and trust has gone out the window, all because of the madman raging through the city, all in the blazing heat of the Summer of Sam.

Now, I forgot who directed this movie, but I wish I would have remembered before I watched it. Of course, Spike Lee helmed this picture, and although some of you may enjoy his work, I think he sucks. I went into this movie without reading any reviews or hearing much about it, and I actually thought it was about the Son of Sam! Imagine that, what a fool I was! It’s not about the killer, of course, the storyline involving him is always just background noise, so to speak. It’s the unseen thing that drives the movie, but we never get to explore it much here. The camera work is decent, but Lee seems to have taken a page from Oliver Stone with his wide variety of styles and shots. Normally, this would be a good thing, but Lee lacks the talent in doing so that Stone possesses. Now, I did like the performances, especially Mira Sorvino, and the acting does warrant a rental. If you are a fan of Spike Lee, you’ll want to give this a chance, and I admit, it’s the most entertaining movie Lee has made. But, that level of entertainment must improve if Lee wants this reviewer to become a fan of his.

As I mentioned earlier, some of the performances in Summer of Sam are quite good, meriting a viewing of the film even. Mira Sorvino (The Mighty Aphrodite, The Replacement Killers) turns in her usual great performance. While often overlooked, Sorvino is one of my favorite actresses, mainly because of her willingness to appear in a wide scope of films. She can play comedic and dramatic roles with skill, and she is the star of Summer of Sam, regardless of screen time. Sorvino’s Dionna is far and away the most interesting character to be found in the film. Also giving a fine portrayal is John Leguizamo (Spawn, The Pest), which was a little surprising, as he hasn’t really made me a believer of his talent. Usually over the top and brash, John manages to play an out of control character with supreme control, and he wins a few points with me for it. Also turning in noteworthy performances are Adrien Brody (The Thin Red Line, Oxygen) and Jennifer Esposito (I Still Know What You Did Last Summer), who bring some decent depth and interest to their characters. Also appearing are Anthony LaPaglia (Empire Records, Phoenix), Bebe Neuwirth (The Faculty, The Associate), and John Savage (White Squall, The Deerhunter).

Video: How does it look?

If Disney lives up to it’s word, Summer of Sam will be one of the final movies issued in non anamorphic widescreen. So, it’s a bad thing with good news involved. Shown here in a 1.85:1 non enhanced widescreen transfer, Summer of Sam look solid, but with all the different styles used, it’s hard to peg down a specific rating. Although greatly changing from scene to scene, the colors on the whole look good, with brightness and such looking good. Black levels are the same way, some scenes are better than others, but on average, the black levels are deep and correct. There is some over enhancement, but nothing to keep from the disc.

Audio: How does it sound?

Summer of Sam sounds very good, but with a little more work, it could have sounded great. The sound, like the video, changes during some scenes in the film, and a little better mixing would have stopped the pattern of going from one type of audio to another, which on this track, happens abruptly, with no lead in at all. It still sounds good though, and takes advantage of all the channels quite well. Dialogue sounds perfect, crisp, clear, and always audible.

Supplements: What are the extras?

All you get is the trailer. Darn the luck, no Spike Lee commentary…

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