I am unabashedly a huge fan of Spike Lee’s. Do the Right Thing is the ultimate summer movie, Jungle Fever is one of the ultimate relationship movies, Summer of Sam is a brilliant crime movie, Malcolm X is a masterpiece, 25th Hour is a brilliant portrait of a post-911 New York, and his documentaries about New Orleans, the bombing of a church in Alabama that claimed the lives of 4 Little Girls, and his recent doc about Michael Jackson’s Bad album are all brilliant as well. He is a masterful filmmaker that is passionate about his culture, his city, and his films. His latest effort is another tale of growing up in New York, Red Hook Summer.
Flik Royale (Jules Brown) is a kid from Atlanta, but his mother has sent him for the summer to live with his estranged grandfather Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters), a preacher in the housing projects of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Flik is used to his big house in Atlanta and having all the things he needs, like his ever present iPad. But in Red Hook Flik quickly finds life is not at all like in Atlanta. He befriends a local girl named Chazz Morningstar (Toni Lysaith) who goes to his grandfather’s church and together they discover the neighbourhood of Red Hook throughout the summer. They encounter drunken church workers, local drug dealers, and dead rats while Flik starts to learn not only about himself, but about a grandfather he doesn’t understand.
There was a lot to like in Red Hook Summer. As with other films of Spike’s, he captures neighbourhoods like no other. He captures the wonder of being a kid and the process of a kid discovering life around him in Flik. The standout performance is that of Clarke Peters as Enoch Rouse, a lively and devoted Bishop with a murky past. Rouse’s performance is electric and alive, making Bishop Rouse the center of the community in his neighbourhood. He wants to make sure Flik is on the right path, and although Flik is essentially a good kid, he is not religious and does not take too well to his grandfather’s teachings. The weak links in Red Hook Summer are unfortunately the two young leads in Jules Brown’s Flik and Toni Lysaith’s Chazz. Neither kid has ever acted before, and I am sure Spike cast them to add a layer of reality to their characters, but for most of their screen time, you can really see them acting. Brown fares much better than Lysaith, who is incredibly over the top, but neither one reaches any level of authenticity and both seem very out of place. But that also says something about the film that it can still be entertaining despite such performances.
The Blu-ray from Image Entertainment in the US (out December 21st) and eOne in Canada (released December 26th) is a bold, saturated transfer that expertly captures a hot New York summer. Colors are bright and bold throughout, detail is minute and fine, and clarity is excellent. The soundtrack of R&B is nicely reproduced as well making for a cocktail of audio and visual that perfectly places you in that sweltering Red Hook Summer. A few missed beats with the adolescent leads and a great performance by Clarke Peters makes Red Hook Summer an uneven but ultimately entertaining addition to Spike Lee’s Chronicles of Brooklyn.
Available December 18, 2012 on Blu-ray and DVD.