Spike Lee excels at movies about New York City summers where inflamed temperatures and inflamed passions lead to conflagrations. After Do the Right Thing and Crooklyn, Summer of Sam seems to conclude a trilogy of movies about the Big Apple in the gone over the edge with apparent heatstroke. In this case, it’s 1977, and what’s making New Yorkers’ temperatures rise are the serial killer known as Son of Sam and the Reggie Jackson-led, pennant-bound Yankees, not necessarily in that order.
Co-written by and co-starring future Sopranos fixture Michael Imperioli, the movie is set primarily in a combustible Bronx neighborhood where paranoia over the still-at-large gunman leads to scapegoating and mob violence. A then-unknown Adrien Brody is a standout as a local who’s suspected because of his weird ways (it turns out he’s a punk rocker, still a novelty at a time when bands like the Ramones were making downtown New York club CBGB the launch pad for the punk explosion).
With legendary columnist Jimmy Breslin on hand to lend some historical perspective and authenticity, Summer of Sam sizzles with feverish, nightmarish intensity.