the final cut of Pulp Fiction,
Quentin Tarantino deleted a scene of Uma Thurman talking to John Travolta
through the lens of a camcorder. It was
already too clichéd. That was nearly
twenty years ago. In his latest film,
Spike Lee heavily relies on a similar device, hoping the upgrade to an Apple
iPad makes it seem fresher. Such a
strategy perfectly represents the tired blood of Red Hook Summer (trailer here), which opens this Friday in New York.
Royale can hardly stand her father, Enoch Rouse, introduced to viewers as “Da
Good Bishop” of the Little Piece of Heaven church, or his old time
religion. Nonetheless, she deposits her
anti-social suburban son Flik in her father’s Red Hook housing project
apartment for the summer. Like a little
Spike Lee, Flik has a compulsive need to film the world around him, but no
faith. Thus begins a generational cold
war, with the minister determined to bring the young cuss to Jesus.
Hook’s first two sluggish acts are
downright laborious, but grandfather and grandson seem to be building a
relationship by meeting each other halfway.
That would be a worthy enough lesson we could all stand to be reminded
of again, if the film followed through on it.
Instead, Lee foists one of the laziest, most obvious third act revelations
on viewers, completely undermining any good will he might have built up thus
far. Remember Enoch Rouse is a man of
the cloth. Anyone who has seen a
Hollywood film in the last twenty years should be able to guess the rest.
since Hook clearly implies Rouse’s
daughter has a good idea what her father’s deep dark secret is, it is
absolutely baffling why she would send her son to stay with him unsupervised,
with only his annoying sense of entitlement for protection, unless she is just
understandably sick of the sullen brat.
No matter, Lee is determined to pull Rouse through the gauntlet, which
he does in punishing Grand Guignol style.
be fair, Clarke Peters does his best to maintain Rouse’s basic humanity,
working like his soul depends on it, but Lee stacks the deck against him. Nonetheless, his performance stands head and
shoulders above the rest of the cast.
That includes Lee himself, briefly appearing in the guise of Do the Right Thing’s Mr. Mookie, clearly
hoping some of viewer’s enthusiasm for his defining film will rub off on this
wan return to the County of Kings.
Hook is a bad movie, but
it is not the fault of the musicians.
New Orleans’ Jonathan Batiste performs some stirring Hammond B-3 solos
and brings some refreshing energy to film when appearing in character as “Da
Organist” TK Hazelton. Likewise, Bruce
Hornsby draws on his jazz chops for a pleasing gospel influenced instrumental
Yes, Hook sounds
great, but the paucity of originality is honestly depressing. Perhaps it is time for Lee to follow Woody
Allen’s lead and leave their beloved New York to make a psychological thriller
with social climbing Londoners. At least
then he would not have the overpowering temptation to fall back on his
predictable Spikisms. Not recommended, Red Hook Summer will disappoint even Lee’s
most dogged champions when it opens this Friday (8/10) in New York at the AMC
Labels: Brooklyn Films, Religion in film, Spike Lee