Point the finger or look in the eye (may contain spoilers)
Well, he does it again, old Spike! It is an intolerable crime from a director - to make You think!
One step at a time: the story You know, if You don't - watch the movie, do the right thing! Memorable performance by Ossie Davies - he is there between decent, hopeful and slightly schizophrenic, true leader, albeit an out of touch, stepped-over one - masterful! Aiello is doing wonderful job, getting just the right mixture of pride, weariness, pain and tenderness (oh yes! just think "All I see is kids growing") into part of Sal. Turturro is brilliant as his son - the "angry" one, full of hate which comes out of his self-shame. Edson, on the other hand, is not so much a good-at-heart sissy as the part suggests, but just plain weak, playing stereotype of a high-pitched crybaby.One could argue that Perez' acting is standard\stereotyped, but I'd say she sets the standard here more then reprises it. Benjamin, Faison and Harris are the right spice for the hood, improvising their chat as the everlasting "3 men at the corner". Esposito's "Banging out" makes a cheap hissy fit out of his life - and is precise,satirical and convincing at this. "RadioRaheem", who sees his life as statement, though I think he really forgets sometimes what is the statement supposed to be about, is not so much played convincingly by Bill Nunn, as filmed brilliantly by Spike. And talking about the master - here is Spike in the middle of things as Mookie, watching, surveying, judging and (very subtly) pitying. He is making Mookie the "author" who creates a situation with a hint then leans back and writes it down for the future to learn the past's misdeeds. He stays relatively cool through the movie, his anger is controlled and sad. Even in the (in)famous scene where he throws the trash can into pizzeria window, I've got a feeling he does that to provoke the crowd and watch their reaction. Finally, Mr. S.L.Jackson comments not so much on the happening on screen as on the thoughts in YOUR head induced by the said happening. What You want to whisper in the ear of the one watching the film beside You - oops, he is again ahead of You.
So - how does it work for us(at least for me)? I quote from the Biography for Spike Lee on IMDb: "DtRT sparked a debate on racial relations, and exactly where Lee was taking the film." This cursed question - where IS he taking it, and us alongside? Well, first I'd say the questions are more important then answers, he just asks - and we figure it for ourselves, each in our own unique way (see my post-answer "Questions instead of Answers" on the "Jungle Fever" board). He does it in broad, almost exaggerated, pop-art-like propaganda style, reminding (only in some of its aspects) of early Almodovar without the surreal. Camera-work is dry and intense, the dialog, while seemingly relaxed, reeks of tension, which is built up so masterfully, that we hardly see it coming. Now my version of the answer is: all of us at some point lack the courage, the intelligence, the plain decency to choose "doing the right thing". Now, Bugging Out at some point in his life had this choice (just an example): 1. do I take the hard way of opening my business where the walls will be covered by the Afro-American heroes; 2. do I make the hard decision to accept that I can't make the business due to circumstances, whatever they may be, as well as accepting the fact that Italian pizzeria has the Italians smiling from the walls, which does not mean they disrespect Afro-Americans; 3. do I take the easy way out - hating all those who show their admiration for THEIR heroes just because I have no special place to show admiration I have for mine. The list goes on. Are Afro-Americans guilty of the mockery Pino has to endure from his friends - or does the problem lie elsewhere, in the fact that his only criteria for the right and wrong comes from cheap, drunk tongues and empty heads of his posse? Does Sal have to let his frustration run ahead of him, or can he keep civil tongue, being aware as a businessman of experience, that a civil word may sometimes put out a fire? Are Korean shop-owners guilty of the fact that the three at the corner have no money for the beer (said beverage being the actual reason)? Is Radio Raheem the reason for the cop's unendurable hated work in a hated neighborhood, or is he just the outlet for the scorn and anger the cop feels towards himself for being a failure (at least in his own eyes). Oh, and, incidentally, whom DOES Raheem love\hate, does he remember at all?
They all had\have their choices. None of them met it quite right. Now how long are we gonna stay weak and indulge ourselves in the easy decisions with fatal results? How long are we gonna excuse ourselves in the idiotic "They started it first", "Everyone around me expects it from me", "I'm not a sissy - I won't give in, hell, I won't budge!" sort of behavior!? Mr. Spike Lee does not give an answer to that - he knows not himself. However, his outlook is gloomy, and as much as I want to be hopeful, I cannot bring a convincing argument against his hopelessness. Except for this: maybe - just maybe - some of us, after watching this incredibly powerful, bitter and truthful movie, will be disturbed enough to restrain at least for a short time from unthinkingly doing the wrong thing just because it's easier or\and in accord with what the close environment expects from us. So, for this hope I say THANK YOU MR.LEE - SERIOUSLY GOOD JOINT!!!
Before commenting on the movie itself I would like to explain my position on "judging" movies (since I'm a newbie here). Namely - IMHO, one has to analyze the "how", not the "what". Meaning - if you, for instance, compare this movie to a, for example, Pasolini / Bertolucci / Tarkovski / Whoever-else, you won't get far. There's no way to choose between a melon and a steak - one is a main course, another is dessert. Now then, all I gotta say on the actual movie is: an excellent specie of a purely commercial entertainment for grown-ups with a lot of kid stuff inside. The advantages and limitations of the genre - which is your typical action with a twist of comedy - are played on beautifully by the great action hero (who, IMHO, is also much more than that) Bruce Willis with his usual charisma and self-irony. Damon Wanes gives a very decent, even if a bit "afroamerican-comedy-club stereotype" performance, every note is in it's rightful place, though he is not as yet the actor we know from "Bamboozled". Danielle Harris is easy-going, natural and convincing as a teen daughter of the Last Boyscout. Chelsea Field is a bit shallow in this, your standard "wife". I think the role needed more "soulsearching". Taylor Negrin was too "cartoony" for my taste, a bit over the top, so didn't affect me as scary, which was obviously intended. The screenplay is fast, alive and has a good balance of drama/comedy, without rubbing our faces in either. Tony Scott keeps it interesting with his very own and unique visual style. On the whole - a highly enjoyable quality entertainment. WATCH IT - HAVE FUN!