A 1989 Spike Leejoint about bigotry and racism.Mookie (Spike Lee) is a delivery man for Sal (Danny Aiello), the Italian-American owner of a Brooklyn pizza joint. One hot summer day, a friend of Mookie's, Buggin' Out (Giancarlo Esposito) notices that Sal's "Wall of Fame" has only Italian celebrities, with no blacks; since Sal's income is coming from the many black people of the neighborhood, Buggin' Out feels that they deserve a place on the wall. Sal feels that it's his right as the owner of the restaurant to put up whoever he likes on the wall. This is one of many incidents of racial tension that play out in the neighborhood, but today is the hottest day of the summer, and by the end of the day the tension will build up to violence and tragedy.There was controversy about it when it came out, with some even warning that the film might incite people to riot (though no riots actually happened.) The ambiguous nature of the ending was also controversial. The movie was nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Screenplay and Danny Aiello as Sal for Best Actor in a Supporting Role.
Angry Black Man: One could say that there are a few (particularly Buggin' Out), but the trope is somewhat inverted when one black man tells another whom is spouting ABM language that he "doesn't want to hear that horseshit."
In the commentary track for the DVD release, Spike Lee specifically notes that when Buggin' Out begins ranting about the pictures in the pizzeria, that he disagrees with the character, saying that it's Sal's place, so it's his right to put whatever pictures he likes on the walls.
The Big Guy: Radio Raheem towers over just about everyone in the movie, and the camera shots during his conversations with Sal and the Korean grocers always show him from low angles, make him look even more like a giant.
But Not Too Black: Mookie gets Pino to admit that 1) his favorite basketball player is Magic Johnson, 2) his favorite actor is Eddie Murphy, and 3) his favorite musician is Prince. When Mookie calls him out on his hypocrisy of referring to every black person he encounters as a "Nigger", Pino backtracks and says "They're different".
Casting Gag: Buggin' Out, who says Sal is racist for not putting any black people on his Italian-American exclusive "Wall of Fame" is played by Giancarlo Esposito, who is himself half-black, half-Italian American.
An Italian man hanging pictures of famous Italian men in his Italian Restaurant? RACIST!
Evil Is Petty: Buggin' Out attempts to start a boycott on Sal's pizzeria because Sal won't put up pictures of black people on his Wall of Fame. He succeeds in getting RadioRaheem and Smiley on the protest, and they begin protesting Sal, which led to Sal breaking Radio Raheem's radio, which led to Raheem's attack on Sal, which led to the cops showing up and killing Radio Raheem, which led to Mookie starting a riot by throwing a trash can at Sal's pizzeria, which led to the pizzeria being burnt down...over some pictures. Everything that happened in the spoilered part was bad, but none of it would've happened if Buggin' Out wasn't so insistent on the pictures. Arguably one of the reasons Buggin' Out could be considered the villain of the story.
Mookie: You dago-wop, guinea, garlic-breath, pizza-slingin', spaghetti-bendin', Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, nonsingin' motherfucker.
Pino: You gold-teeth-gold-chain-wearin', fried-chicken-and-biscuit-eatin', monkey, ape, baboon, big thigh, fast-runnin', high-jumpin', spear-chuckin', three-hundred-sixty-degree-basketball-dunkin' titsun spade Moulan Yan. Take your fuckin' pizza-pizza and go the fuck back to Africa.
Stevie: You little slanty-eyed, me-no-speaky-American, own-every-fruit-and-vegetable-stand-in-New-York, bullshit, Reverend Sun Myung Moon, Summer Olympics '88, Korean kick-boxing son of a bitch.
Officer Long: You Goya bean-eating, fifteen in a car, thirty in an apartment, pointed shoes, red-wearing, Menudo, mire-mire Puerto Rican cocksucker. Yeah, you!
Sonny: It's cheap, I got a good price for you, Mayor Koch, "How I'm doing," chocolate-egg-cream-drinking, bagel-and-lox, B'nai B'rith Jew asshole.
Funny Background Event: When Mookie and Vito are talking about Pino, you can see Mister Senor Love Daddy gesturing wildly from the radio station to try and get their attention (as Mookie is supposed to be delivering his lunch)
Grey and Grey Morality: Many of the main characters are of questionable morals and their actions can be interpreted one way or another. Mookie is not a hard worker but clearly cares for his son and is respected in the community, Pino is a Jerk Ass whose own friends don't respect him, Buggin' Out is a black militant Malcolm X wannabe who could be a good character but misdirects his ideals of black justice at Sal, who never did anything wrong to anyone, and Sal himself is a nice man who's constantly provoked by Buggin' Out and shows signs of barely concealed racism.
Hypocritical Humor: A dark example. Mookie shows up the day after the riot to collect his money (which he didn't earn) from the pizza store owner, after Mookie incited the riot which cost him his business.
Word of God: Director Spike Lee says there's a racial component to interpreting Mookie's actions: White viewers are the only ones that ponder whether or not Mookie did the right thing; black viewers tend to grasp his rage-redirection intent immediately. Lee says this debate reflects ugly implications about the value of white property vs. a black life.Word of Godalso says that throwing the trash can had nothing to do with saving Sal, and was a reaction to Radio Raheem's death.
Jerk Ass: Pino. He is a racist who barely bothers hiding his racism, and hates working in his dad's pizzeria to the point where he outright refuses to sweep up front and constantly asks someone else to do so. He's very disrespectful to even his own brother, and especially to the people in the neighborhood (Mookie, Smiley, etc.). In a twist of irony though, his favorite celebrities are Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Prince, only so liked because according to Pino, they're 'different'. Also, his racism might be explained away by his 'friends' barely tolerating him because he's the son of Sal and otherwise hating on him, though not excused.
Knuckle Tattoos: Subverted in that the typical LOVE/HATE tattoos are replaced by Radio Raheem's jewelry.
Minor Injury Overreaction: Buggin' Out overreacting when a guy accidentally scuffs his new shoes. When the guy apologizes he still makes it a big deal. Of course, the guy being white might've had something to do with it...
A few of his mannerisms do exhibit a slightly concealed racism, such as when he threatens to bust Buggin' Out's head in for provoking him over the pictures on the wall. Buggin' Out even looked offended at the bat gesture and being called "a troublemaker." This is particularly displayed when Raheem, Buggin' and Smiley enter his store at the end to confront him. Of course, that could be just because they keep getting on his case. It's a very ambiguous case, indeed.
Ms. Fanservice: Rosie Perez in the intro, although Spike Lee may not have intended it that way.
Not to mention her topless scene...
The reason you never see her face during her nude scene was because she felt she was being exploited and was crying while the scenes were being filmed.
Police Are Useless: An Italian guy's car is soaked by some black kids messing with a fire hydrant. What do New York's finest do? Put the cap back on the hydrant, mock the guy's attempts to make a report for vandalization, and suggest he take off before the locals decide to strip his car clean.
There's also a sequence of speeches (the first is: "You dago-wop, guinea, garlic-breath, pizza-slingin', spaghetti-bendin', Vic Damone, Perry Como, Luciano Pavarotti, Sole Mio, nonsingin' motherfucker.") which reference an old Pepsi Cola ad. ("Lip smacking, thirst quenching, ace-tasting, motivating, good buzzing, cool talking, high walking, fast living, ever-giving, cool fizzing...")
At one point during his radio show, Mister Seņor Love Daddy does a "roll call" wherein he name-checks a veritable Who's Who of African-American musicians.
Yank the Dog's Chain: Right as Sal, the kindly old man who's one of the few genuinely kind people, is about to let in some customers even though he's closed, because he just loves his community, a riot breaks out ending up with Sal being attacked on the street, a man dead, the pizzeria that he built and ran all his life looted and burnt to the ground, all by the people who he just moments ago happily mentioned grew up on his pizza.