Generally favorable reviews - based on 26 Critics

Critic score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 26
  2. Negative: 0 out of 26
  1. This is a terrific movie: jolting, savage, horrifically funny, nightmarishly exciting but also brainy and compassionate.
  2. Lee's control and storytelling flair have never seemed more assured and there are moments so powerful and thrilling we feel we're in the hands of a master filmmaker at the peak of his powers.
  3. 90
    Lee at his best, a virtuoso piece of filmmaking that's stylish, substantial, and rich in detail.
  4. 88
    Lee has a wealth of material here, and the film tumbles through it with exuberance.
  5. Reviewed by: Ron Wells
    Lee gives us cross-section of characters, almost none of whom escape the summer unchanged.
  6. Reviewed by: Sarah Vowell
    An urban epic, a noisy, swirling, flawed, hilarious, witty, tender, violent, questionable train wreck.
  7. The most refreshing thing about Summer of Sam is that it doesn't try to impose a moral or define the limits of its story.
  8. One of Lee's unsung gifts as a filmmaker is his discovery of that place between eye-popping surrealism and wrenching Greek tragedy.
  9. 75
    It is a dark, violent, sexually explicit motion picture that will surely offend timid viewers.
  10. 70
    A tabloid slice of tabloid life, ragged, vivid, awkward and punchy all at once.
  11. 70
    Brilliant, goofy, vindictive, incoherent and compassionate, Summer of Sam begins as a work of startling ambition, spins out of control, and finally limps to a bland halt.
  12. 70
    A film in which many things seem to happen twice and others not at all.
  13. This film, like the dazzling but many-tentacled "He Got Game" before it, makes up in fury much of what it lacks in form.
  14. Reviewed by: David Ansen
    A thick stew of sex, violence and suspicion, Lee's movie -- spiked up with a virtually nonstop soundtrack -- definitely has the power to jangle your nerves.
  15. Reviewed by: Todd McCarthy
    Summer of Sam is never less than absorbing but feels just a bit like yesterday's news, both narratively and cinematically.
  16. Like most of Lee’s work, this movie bites off a lot more than it can possibly chew, and it bristles with the worst kind of New York provincialism.
  17. 67
    An intelligent, viscerally kinetic throw-down, a jolt of pure adrenalized Spike that holds more than a few touches of genius in its overripe storyline.
  18. It's a kaleidoscope of ideas that range from exciting to silly and gaudy.
  19. It's all been done before, and better.
  20. A glum and unpleasant experience, caught between what it wants to do and how it has chosen to do it.
  21. Reviewed by: David Edelstein
    Spike Lee is a virtuoso filmmaker, a wizard at selling a sequence, but he'll never make an entirely coherent movie until he learns to go deeper into his subjects instead of wider with them.
  22. 60
    Hobbled by a multiplicity of narrative lines and superfluous, often stereotypical characters, the movie suffers from a lack of both focus and passion.
  23. 60
    Slamming different kinds of experience together, Lee tries to do with montage what he cannot do with dramatic logic.
  24. Spike Lee noisily attempts to place the hunt for real-life serial killer David Berkowitz at the center of a hotheaded sociological fantasy linking disco glitz, punk rebellion, ethnic insularity, sexual craving, and sizzling heat into one rattling chain of urban hysteria.
  25. 50
    The cast has plenty of room to emote, but their task feels a bit empty and thankless. For the most part, they're carrying the director's water.
  26. If there's any moral to this sorry story, perhaps Lee's stealth-message is it: Even when it's not about race, it is.
User Score

Mixed or average reviews- based on 20 Ratings

User score distribution:
  1. Positive: 3 out of 4
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 4
  3. Negative: 1 out of 4
  1. SeanK
    Jun 5, 2009
    The film opens with a scene set in a dance club where we see one of our main characters being introduced by the sounds off the floor. Spike The film opens with a scene set in a dance club where we see one of our main characters being introduced by the sounds off the floor. Spike Lee who has grown to become a very wel known yet controversial director has always had a certain style to his movies that almost implement that somewherehes left his mark but in Summer of Sam we see him drop all the ethnic tensions that he seems t focus so much on lately and he gives us his best film to date. John Leguizamo gives a great and somewhat sad performance as a sex crazed disco dancin italian in the Bronx where he tries to remain faithful to his caring wife but in the end he basically messes up. Lee prsents the true nature of a city in terror as the Son of Sam sweeps through the city knocking off innocent young brunettes and any others who are so unfortunte to taste a .44 calibur. He gives us two stories which Lee works well with. The film is a very raging emotional and angry film tht shows the darker side of our world and what it use to be. Ifi had any complaints it would be the last minute love inerest that Adrien Brody seems to attach but not carry. Full Review »
  2. M.C
    Aug 7, 2008
    One of my favorite films, a cult classic.
  3. JoshC
    Sep 22, 2007
    Here's a helpful rule of thumb for divining the general worth of a Spike Lee movie: If it's generating bales of media controversy, Here's a helpful rule of thumb for divining the general worth of a Spike Lee movie: If it's generating bales of media controversy, it's not going to be his best work. If it comes and goes without a major radar blip, it'll be up to his extraordinarily outsize talents: moving, thought-provoking, a humane and technical marvel. Which is to say that you probably didn't catch 1995's ''Clockers'' or 1998's ''He Got Game,'' because commentators and columnists weren't calling for Lee's head on a platter. And that's because those films didn't go out of their way to push racial/cultural hot buttons (trenchantly? irresponsibly? depends on who you ask), nor was the filmmaker indulging in his annoyingly puckish penchant for in-your-face sound bites. No, here Lee was just making good, solid, troubling stories about people rather than archetypes. With the towering exception of 1989's ''Do the Right Thing'' -- one of the great movies of its decade precisely BECAUSE it pisses so many people off (and, for the record, let's note that it didn't start riots in the street as writer Joe Klein predicted it would) -- Spike's art tends to prosper in inverse proportion to his agitprop: ''Jungle Fever,'' ''Mo' Better Blues,'' even chunks of ''Malcolm X,'' ''Crooklyn,'' and ''Girl 6'' are all hobbled by the director's itch to make provocative statements and use his characters as social chess pieces. (Nowhere does this show up more than in Lee's often-cardboard, more-often-cruel female characters). So now we've got ''Summer of Sam,'' a movie that has ticked off everyone from the families of the victims of the infamous ''Son of Sam'' to serial killer David Berkowitz himself. Spike is, as usual, defending himself in the press and throwing small, piquant thought bombs in the process. And guess what? The movie itself is a hugely ambitious attempt to corral all the sexual/political/racial/cultural/meteorlogical crosscurrents of 1977 New York City that falls squarely, if fascinatingly, on its butt. Actually, ''Summer of Sam'' is something of a bait and switch. It's not really about Berkowitz's reign of terror so much as it's an Italian-American street scene: ''Mean Streets'' meets ''Do the Right Thing.'' The main characters are an adulterous Bronx hairdresser (John Leguizamo), his dazed, goodhearted wife (Mira Sorvino), and a neighborhood kid gone punk (Adrien Brody). Hanging in the background are a bunch of low-rent goodfellas who think anyone with a Mohawk has to be a serial killer and -- wayyyy off in the distance -- the tubby figure of Berkowitz, whose inner and outer torments are played as gonzo, campy horror. What ''Summer of Sam'' does very well is put across an atmosphere of queasy dread, stirring the heat, the blackout, the lootings, CBGBs, and the infamous sex-club Plato's Retreat into concentric circles of hell. If nothing else, the movie's a reminder of how truly Disneyfied New York City has become. But Leguizamo's losing battle with his Madonna/whore complex is laid out obviously from the start and only gets more so, and, Brody aside, the street buddies are snottily observed caricatures (compare Michael Rispoli's one-note work here with his richly shaded turn as a dying Mafiosi on HBO's ''The Sopranos.'') The fault's not Lee's alone; he's working from a script by Michael Imperioli (another ''Sopranos'' vet) and Victor Colicchio that puts stick figures in front of an epic canvas. But it's the director who's putting this out there as a Spike Lee joint -- with all the baggage that that phrase has come to signify. Hasn't he learned that movies work best when it's the characters carrying the baggage? Full Review »