With the possible exception of his cable miniseries When the Levees Broke, this 1989 feature is still Spike Lee's best work, chronicling a very hot day on a single block of Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood, when a series of minor encounters and incidents lead to an explosion of racial violence at an Italian-owned pizzeria. Sharp and knowing, though not always strictly realistic, it manages to give all the characters their due. Bill Lee's wall-to-wall score eventually loses some of its effectiveness, and a few elements (such as the patriarchal roles played by the local drunk and a disc jockey) seem more fanciful than believable. But overall this is a powerful and persuasive look at an ethnic community and what makes it tick—funky, entertaining, packed with insight, and political in the best, most responsible sense.
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