bluesyasian’s review published on Letterboxd:
When the name Spike Lee comes up, a lot of people will quickly cringe and dismiss it and anything to do with it. Spike Lee? Beyond the fact that I often agree with Spike Lee on many issues, including race, after watching Do the Right Thing, I'd say that Spike is a damn good film maker too. A large, Altman-esque, ensemble drama, Do the Right Thing, is willing to look at the gray areas of race relations, and is not afraid to make a controversial statement. Finding the good and bad in all races Lee somewhat gives the audience the ability to determine what the "Right thing" is, although based on his comments about the film, he seems to more expect black and white audiences to have differing opinion on the "right thing".
In the summer of 1989, and New York City is in the middle of it's hottest summer in years. Yet for Brooklyn resident Mookie(Spike Lee), its just another day on the job. A pizza delivery man, Mookie works a Sal's Famous Pizza, one of the last white businesses, where Sal(Danny Aeillo) and his two sons Pino(John Turturro) and Vito(Richard Edison) While Vito is considers Mookie a friend, and Sal proud that his business has served the neighborhood, Pino is openly racist, and makes Mookie's job. As Mookie delivers pizzas, he interacts with the various members of his neighborhood, ranging from old black men, Korean business owners, and young Puerto Ricans, all of whom interact in a not so harmonious manner, as tempers flare as hot as the sun.
The surprising thing about Do the Right Thing, is that it really has no plot. Rather than flesh out a story, Do the Right Thing almost feels like a documentary about these various characters. That's not the say the movie looks like a documentary. If anything, Do the Right Thing feels and looks like a hip hop music video done Elia Kazan. A true student of film, Lee's puts an interesting twist on a style derived from New Hollywood. The best part of the film though are the characters, both how they are written and the performances. A character such as Pino as played by John Turturro never feels one dimension. Yes he a racist and one of the many antagonists of the film, but he also seems to have some respect for black culture and music, and Lee suggests that some of his resentment comes from societal pressures from working in a minority neighborhood rather than his own prejudices. On the other hand, Lee doesn't treat his African-American characters as saints either. They are bad fathers(Mookie), Drunks(Da Mayor), and brutes(Radio Raheem). In the end though, everyone is trying to do the right thing. What the right thing, is something Lee won't exactly tell us.
A unique and thought provoking film, Do the Right Thing is the breakout film from a talented director. Must watch.