Combustible Celluloid
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With: Jules Brown, Clarke Peters, Toni Lysaith, Nate Parker, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Heather Simms, Colman Domingo, James Ransone, De'Adre Aziza, Kimberly Hebert Gregory, Stephen Henderson, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Al Palagonia, Tracy Camilla Johns, Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee, James McBride
Directed by: Spike Lee
MPAA Rating: R for brief violence, language and a disturbing situation
Running Time: 121
Date: 01/22/2012

Red Hook Summer (2012)

3 Stars (out of 4)

Open Brooklyn

By Jeffrey M. Anderson

Director Spike Lee calls this the latest chapter in his "Chronicles of Brooklyn" series, and his famous Do the Right Thing character, the pizza delivery man Mookie, makes a cameo appearance. But Red Hook Summer is a strange, meandering, complex movie more along the lines of a minor movie like Crooklyn than one of his masterpieces. There are no clear character arcs and no three-act dramatic structure, but the movie's messiness comes close to the rhythms of life.

Flik Royale (Jules Brown), a 13 year-old with a comfortable life in Atlanta, is dropped off in the Brooklyn neighborhood of Red Hook to spend the summer with his grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters). His grandfather sends him to church and gives him chores, hoping that the boy will find his faith. Flik also develops a hot-and-cold friendship with the feisty Chazz Morningstar (Toni Lysaith), a girl his own age. Flik tries to keep a cool, detached attitude, but everything changes when a dark secret from the Bishop's past comes back to haunt him.

Lee conjures up a very definite mood, using weird color filters to emphasize yellows and underlining the New York heat. On the soundtrack, raw hymnals mix with the piano music of none other than pop star Bruce Hornsby. Then, the film's climax comes as a huge shock after the relative gentleness of the first three quarters, but overall the movie demonstrates that true faith may be the result of suffering (Flik hasn't known suffering and therefore doesn't need religion) and that no religious experience comes without some wreckage.

A Blu-ray edition, released by One Village and Image Entertainment, comes with some wonderful extras: a half-hour behind-the-scenes documentary and a full-length commentary track by Spike Lee, as well as a music video and a trailer. Blu-ray quality is amazing, with the movie's strange color scheme really popping out, more so than it did on the big screen.

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