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The One-Line Summary: In the culturally diverse neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Brooklyn, on a blisteringly hot summer day, a pizza-delivery boy named Mookie (Spike Lee) is witness to an explosive racially-charged incident involving his Italian-American boss Sal (Danny Aiello) and his Wall of Fame that features only white men in a part of town this is mostly black.
The Two-Line Blurb: Spike Lee’s highly controversial film still feels relevant and incendiary decades later as to whether Mookie does in fact do the right thing, saving a life or inciting violence, bringing to question the differing philosophies of the black civil right’s top leaders, Martin Luther King Jr. and Malcom X. The highly stylized points of view, mix of sharp satirical social commentary and sudden jarring, emotional violence make this a unique and truly affecting film experience.
The Three-Line Set-up: Sal is a proud and fair man with two sons divided by their feelings towards the black community, one who shares a deep friendship many in the neighborhood and the other who is angrily intolerant. One evening, as the fervor over the white Wall of Fame fans ever-increasing flames of discontent, Buggin’ Out (Giancarlo Esposito), Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn), and Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith) come into the shop playing music very loudly on a boombox that Radio Raheem always carries. They demand that Sal change the wall, which, mixed with the noise and the high heat, causes Sal to take a baseball bat to the radio and racially insult the men.
The Four-Line Moment: A fight breaks out that leads into the street and causes the police to arrive. They jump on the black men and one cop won’t release a choke hold he has on Radio Raheem, which eventually causes the man to die of asphyxiation in the policeman’s arms. Realizing they’ve killed a man in front of a growing crowd, they put Raheem in the cruiser and drive off, leaving Sal and his shop with no protection. As fury ignites the crush of people in the street, Mookie sees that Sal is in physical if not mortal danger as he is blamed for Raheem’s death, causing him to throw a garbage can through the restaurant window.
The Five-Word Review: Still Spike Lee’s best film.