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New York City during the summer of 1977, with the Son of Sam serial killings providing a frame for (and backdrop to) the main action. This sprawling, highly ambitious film, adapted from a script by Michael Imperioli and Victor Colicchio, is the first in which director Spike Lee concentrates almost exclusively on white characters. Among the classic films echoed here are M (the tracking of a serial killer by everyone, including organized crime), the first half of Fury (the making of a lynch mob), and Lee's own Do the Right Thing. Perhaps the most remarkable achievement is the lead performance of John Leguizamo as a hairdresser who epitomizes the sexual double standards the movie is designed to critique—it's one of the most fascinating portraits of a proletarian lunkhead since Brando in On the Waterfront. Like most of Lee's work, this bites off more than it can chew, but the breadth and energy are impressive. With Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, Jennifer Esposito, Anthony LaPaglia, Roger Guenveur Smith, and Ben Gazzara. 144 min.

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