Red Hook Summer tells the personal kind of tale that is perfect for a Spike Lee film. It’s simple, urban, and daring. After straying from the formula that helped him reach acclaim, via the bank heist thriller Inside Man (which I love), and the WWII epic Miracle at St. Anna (which I hate), Red Hook Summer should essentially be a worthy return to form. Why then are a majority of film’s 121 minutes filled with nothing but dull, idle banter? Where’s the life? The pain and humor? Red Hook Summer is a Spike Lee film, all right, but certainly not the one I was hoping for.
I make specific note of the religious proceedings depicted in the movie because you need to be ready for them. Half of this film is spent in the church; the other half is on the street. And when Red Hook Summer puts you in the house of God, you’re there to bask in his light. So there’s problem one: if you’re going to spend half your movie in a church, then you better captivate me. Which is precisely what Red Hook Summer does not do. The scens drag on and on, and on, and add little weight to anything.
Let’s move out of the church and onto the street. Some of the scenes in the Red Hook projects work, and work well, especially when Blood gang leader Box (Nate Parker) is on screen. But mostly, the film is a two-hour passion project that falls flat.
Once the film takes a dark turn, the dramatics kick in full blast, and we’re reminded of the man who made gritty ghetto classics like Clockers, He Got Game and Do the Right Thing. But, by then, it’s simply too little too late. Enoch is played by Clarke Peters, and he is played with the same conviction the actor brought to Lester Freamon in The Wire and currently brings to Albert Lambreaux in Treme. Based on the strength of the film’s third act and the way in which Peters so expertly plays his character, I cannot call Red Hook Summer a complete miss. But, sadly, it’s impossible for me to fully recommend. C-
(Note: Much has been made about the fact that Red Hook Summer is an indirect sequel to Do the Right Thing. With the exception of Lee popping up a few times as the pizza-delivering Mookie, yelling “Hell to the nah!,” there is virtually no other affiliation between the two films.)