Do the Right Thing

Do the Right Thing Movie Poster

"It's the hottest day of the summer.  You can do nothing, you can do something, or you can...Do the Right Thing".  Do the Right Thing, a Spike Lee comedy-drama released in 1989, was a social commentary on 80's race relations that starred Danny Aiello as Sal, Spike Lee as Mookie, Samuel L. Jackson as Love Daddy, and Ossie Davis as Da Mayor.  The movie was a big success with critics.  Siskel and Ebert even ranked it as one of the top 10 films of the 1980’s.  And of course it was a huge financial success.

The entire action takes place on one city block, on the hottest day of the summer.  Ultimately, the events of the story line culminate in a violent riot at the end of the movie, which caused some controversy among critics.  In this movie, Mookie (Lee), a young black man with little ambition, is a pizza delivery man for Sal Frangione (Aiello).  Other characters on the block include a drunk who they call Da Mayor (Davis), a guy name Radio Raheem who constantly plays Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” song on his boom box, a mentally challenged resident called Smiley who flashes pictures of Marin Luther King, Jr. and Malcom X, a DJ named Mister Senor Love Daddy (Jackson), and a number of other characters.

As the day wears on, the block residents just try to get through the heat of the day.  They get into fights, arguments, and generally cause problems.  Much of the ruckus is over some of the black residents wanting Sal to feature black celebrities on the walls of his pizzeria, which he refuses to do.  After a fight between Radio Raheem and Sal, the police accidentally kills Raheem, and the neighborhood goes into a major fit blaming Sal and his kids for Raheem’s death.  They begin to riot, destroying the pizzeria and spilling their hatred onto the street.  By the next day, everyone has calmed down, and they begin contemplating the events of the previous night and wondering about what lesson, if any, has been gleaned.