Do the Right Thing


D: Spike Lee

40 Acres & A Mule (Spike Lee & Monty Ross)

USA 🇺🇸 1989

120 mins


W: Spike Lee

DP: Ernest Dickerson

Ed: Barry Alexander Brown

Mus: Bill Lee

Danny Aiello (Sal), Ossie Davis (Da Mayor), Ruby Dee (Mother Sister), Richard Edson (Vito), Giancarlo Esposito (Buggin' Out), Spike Lee (Mookie), Bill Nunn (Radio Raheem), Rosie Perez (Tina), John Turturro (Pino)

Spike Lee's breakthrough film, presenting racial issues that the political filmmaker felt that Hollywood had a tendency to ignore.

The film takes place on a scorching summer day in multiracial Brooklyn neighbourhood. The local eatery, Sal's Famous Pizzeria, owned by Italian-American Sal and his two sons is the main focal point of the story, where delivery boy Mookie does as little as possible in his dead-end job, occasionally being on the wrong side of bigotry by Sal's embittered son Pino. Mookie acts as a mediator when the neighbourhood's self-styled political activist, Buggin' Out, kicks up a fuss that the pizza restaurant has a lack of African-Americans on its 'wall of fame', a trivial matter which ultimately sparks a riot in the streets, born out of intolerance, frustration and pure vitriol.

The film balances finely between a race relations drama and propaganda, which isn't helped by an ending which fails to address the issues it raises and counters this with a Martin Luther King quote that an eye for an eye leaves the whole world blind.

It's quite an irony that 1989 saw the Oscars honour a film (Driving Miss Daisy) that suggested racism wasn't a problem and virtually ignored this, which has an opposite view. It's also quite ironic that, out of a huge ensemble of African-American actors, it was Danny Aiello who received a nomination for Best Supporting Actor, although he does do a great job in making a likeable character out of someone suppressing unconscious prejudices.  

The film doesn't really have heroes or villains, just a mixture of realistic characters thrown into a melting pot. The success opened the door for a new generation of black filmmakers, including John Singleton, who released the equally iconic Boyz N The Hood two years later.


Do The Right Thing
Do The Right Thing