ARE YOU covering your soft parts? Spike Lee is about to drag you
into a sizzling kitchen called "Do the Right Thing." But in this case,
you're going to love the heat.
As in heat-of-the-moment racial flare-ups in a black New York
neighborhood where Italians serve pizza, Koreans sell vegetables but
blacks do all the buying. Why love this kind of heat? Because Lee has
fused political message, gripping drama and community comedy with
finesse. Whether or not you agree with his provocative views (and late
in the movie some of his conclusions could upset the most open-minded of
viewers), there's no doubt about the film's sheer power and taut
originality. There's no gotta about this any more: Spike has it.
There actually is a kitchen in "Right Thing" -- the one at Sal's
Famous Pizzeria on Stuyvesant Avenue, where paisan Danny Aiello and sons
John Turturro and Richard Edson have fed the locals for years but still
skimp on the cheese. But these aren't just any locals -- they're Spike
Lee creations, and they deserve a whole cheese pie each: Radio deejay
Senåor Love Daddy sits atop Stuyvesant Avenue, spinning the discs and
giving all-day running commentary, including the movie's funniest line
(a summer warning to those with special hair-care concerns). Ossie
Davis's Da Mayor is a self-appointed sidewalk politician who's high on
opinion and Miller beer. Sweet Dick Willie's R-rated street rap will
bring the house down. Grim-faced Radio Rasheem, who blasts Bed-Stuy
daily with Public Enemy's anthemic "Fight the Power," seems to live only
for size D batteries. And pigeon-toed, slinky eyed Lee himself plays
Sal's deliveryman, Mookie, who could use the paycheck but not the slurs.
Those slurs are only part of what leads to "Right Thing's" explosive
finale. Mookie (who suddenly gets political), Radio Rasheem and agitator
Bugging Out (Giancarlo Esposito) certainly play their parts in it all.
But director Lee, with pluralistic panache, keeps things open to wide
interpretation -- though his viewpoint reveals radical colors from time
to time. But whatever the ultimate truth (and there really isn't one),
it's clear that everyone in the movie could use a cold moral shower by
the end of the day.
What counts is Lee's artistic achievement (he is aided superbly by
cinematographer Ernest Dickerson and scorer William J. E. Lee, the
director's father). With "Right Thing," the maker of "She's Gotta Have
It" and "School Daze" has made a quantum leap into the ranks of
America's most serious-minded moviemakers. This is radical filmmaking at
its best; it'll have you arguing -- and laughing -- all the way home.
You'd be doing the right thing to bring your posterior on down to catch
it. DO THE RIGHT THING (R) --