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Summer of Sam


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Movie Review

This extremely twisted film focuses on the fears of a New York neighborhood during the summer of 1977 as serial killer David Berkowitz ("Son of Sam"), carries out his grisly murders. The story follows a group of Italian American men who, under the guise of finding out who the killer is, form their own vigilante group to first accuse, then beat up those they don't like. The main two characters, husband and wife Vinny and Dionna, live for weekend night life. Their doomed marriage, drug use, sexual habits and insecurities—and that of their neighbors—weave together what passes for the film's plot.

Positive Elements: None

Spiritual Content: Vinny repeatedly feels guilty for his infidelity and, when he happens upon two of Berkowitz' early victims, believes God is punishing him ("God is telling me I'll burn in hell if I don't stop cheating"). His promise to change is never actualized.

Sexual Content: It would be more than fair to label this film as pornography. Erotic sexual situations dominate. One of the opening scenes finds Vinny sodomizing his wife's cousin in the backseat of his car. He also beds his boss. When he does have sex with his wife, it is explicitly portrayed. In yet another lewd bedroom scene, Dionna dons a blond wig (Son of Sam targets brunettes) and a red negligee. Vinny fantasizes he's with another woman, calling her "Sherry" during their sexual escapade. When Dionna attempts fellatio, she is rebuked. Vinny makes it clear he prefers that kind of sex from other women. The pair talk about getting "dirty movies" and at one point, Dionna even asks one of Vinny's lovers to give her lessons on how to better please Vinny sexually.

After snorting cocaine at a party of high rollers, Vinny and Dionna participate in a wild orgy that includes lesbian sex (frontal nudity) while Dionna has intercourse with another man. Meanwhile, Vinny's best friend—punk-rocking-heroin-shooting Ritchie—works as a dancer for a gay club where his kinky routine includes slashing a stuffed mannequin with a knife. Ritchie's evenings culminate in male prostitution. In yet another sex scene, Ritchie startles his mother and partner engaged in sexual activities in her living room. Her breasts are fully exposed.

Violent Content: Serial killer David Berkowitz plays only a minor role in this two hour and 16 minute trash-fest, but those scenes repeatedly show victims being shot at nearly point-blank range and the bloody aftermath. Vinny's vigilante group beats up Ritchie under the pretense that he's the Son of Sam killer and leave him in a bloody pile on the street. In another scene they beat up a man solely because he likes the Red Sox baseball team.

Crude or Profane Language: Hundreds of f-words are used. The Lord's name is repeatedly blasphemed.

Drug and Alcohol Content: All of the main characters abuse drugs, including cocaine, marijuana and Quaaludes. Ritchie shoots up heroin.

Other Negative Elements: Before Vinny and Dionna break up at film's end, Vinny threatens her in an argument with, "I'm gonna kill myself if you leave." Ritchie's punk rock band is named Late Term Abortion.

Summary: The only "sin" in this movie is Berkowitz' serial killing. Everything else—drug use, violence, lesbianism, perverse sex and homosexual prostitution is either glamorized or treated matter-of-factly. There are simply no heroes in this film, no redeeming qualities. Disney should be absolutely ashamed. No one—absolutely no one—should be subjected to this sick film.


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John Leguizama as Vinny; Adrien Brody as Ritchie; Mira Sorvino as Dionna; Jennifer Esposito as Ruby; Michael Rispoli as Joey T.


Spike Lee


Touchstone Pictures



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