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Film / Summer of Sam

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Summer of Sam is a 1999 film directed by Spike Lee, starring John Leguizamo, Adrien Brody, Mira Sorvino, and Jennifer Esposito.

The year is 1977, and New York City is experiencing a tremendous heatwave, a major blackout, and of course a serial killer keeping the whole city on edge. A group of friends in The Bronx get swept up in fear and paranoia as the police continue to hunt for Son of Sam aka The .44 Caliber Killer, a psycho who shoots young couples as they sit parked in their cars. Their paranoia is heavily fueled by drugs, constant news coverage of the killer, and the arrival of their old friend Richie (Brody), who is now involved in the emerging punk rock scene which they are completely unfamiliar and uncomfortable with.



  • Ambiguously Gay: The guys are convinced Richie is gay due to his punk rocker image.
    • Richie has sexual encounters with men for money, so he's at least gay for pay or bisexual.
  • Anti-Hero: Vinny is a serial womanizer but has his good points, such as standing up for Richie.
  • Anyone Can Die: Subverted, None of the main characters even come into contact with the killer.
  • Based on a True Story: Son of Sam.
  • Big Blackout: Really happened.
  • The Big Rotten Apple: In the opening scene, Jimmy Breslin says it's the city he loves and hates at the same time.
  • Black Comedy: Some intense scenes are actually hilarious. Brian's reaction to his pants being ruined after he beat up the punk rocker. Brian whining about Joey strangling him. Bobby being extremely wussy. The elderly black woman on the news saying she is glad the killer is a white man. The Son of Sam receiving orders to kill from a talking dog.
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  • Bookends: The movie begins and ends with a report from Jimmy Breslin.
  • Brooklyn Rage: Although set in The Bronx, all the characters can go from 0 to 100 within a split second.
  • Brother–Sister Incest: Brian chases away his half sister Ruby's boyfriend for insulting her, seconds later he tells her he is horny and needs a 'hug' off her.
  • The Bully: So many of them.
  • Bury Your Gays: While Richie's sexuality is never confirmed, it's assumed that he either doesn't label himself or is gay-for-pay as he enjoys a heterosexual relationship with Ruby and only has sex with men for money. However, the male characters, except for Vinny, view Richie as the scum of the earth and are determined to make his life a misery at every opportunity. Lampshaded with Bobby, who is openly gay. They make the odd homophobic remark at him, but other than that have no issue with him hanging around, although he gets his hand cruelly burned by a cigarette when he gets too close to Brian.
  • Camp Gay: Bobby, helpfully nicknamed "the fairy."
  • Cluster F-Bomb: The film has over 435 uses of the word "fuck", previously becoming the movie with the most uses of the word in a mainstream film, until The Wolf of Wall Street dethroned it.
  • Country Matters:
    Brian: "Twat you say? I cunt hear."
    Anthony: "I have an in-fuck-ion in my ear."
  • Crapsack World: Almost every scene in the movie is negative.
  • Creator Cameo: Spike Lee appears as the news reporter John Jeffries.
  • Death by Sex: Averted, Vinny and Dionna attend an orgy, yet get home safely.
  • The Don: Luigi, the local "plumber."
  • Downer Ending: Although the real Son Of Sam is arrested, Vinny loses his girlfriend Dionna for his infidelities and Richie's friendship because he brought his friends to kill him believing that he's the killer. Vinny tries unsuccessfully to apologize for the mistake.
  • Double Standard: Vinnie is a walking double standard when it comes to women.
  • End of an Era: The popularity of disco is fading fast, giving way to punk and other forms of music.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: While not necessarily evil, Brian and Joey are exceptionally mean to a lot of people, yet Joey loves his daughter and Brian speaks fondly of his mother.
  • Even Evil Has Standards: Again, they are not completely evil, but Vinny's friends have only one redeemable quality, in that they are determined to find the killer and don't condone the killings.
  • Everyone Is a Suspect: The main characters sketch out a list of suspects including priests, Vietnam veterans, and their own friends.
  • Fan Disservice: The upside of the orgy scene is that there is several sexy women. The downside is that it is VERY grotesque. Vinnie keeps pulling horrible faces while he’s having sex, Dionna is clearly uncomfortable with the whole thing, everyone is smashed on cocaine, it's filmed in ludicrously high contrast and the Chic's relentlessly cheerful Everybody Dance plays over the top.
  • Flipping the Bird: Happens often.
  • Foregone Conclusion: The movie early on identifies David Berkowitz as the killer, and draws tension from the characters reaching erroneous conclusions while lacking that information.
  • Gay Best Friend: Bobby the Fairy is rather popular with the overtly macho males. Although they do make a few homophobic jibes at him, they are much more comfortable with him hanging around than Richie.
    Anthony: They say this killer is a woman hater, that's you Bobby!
    Joey: Yeah, .44 caliber queer!
    Brian: He's guilty, put him through the PENILE system.
  • Heat Wave: Everyone is dressed for summer.
  • Hooker with a Heart of Gold: Ruby, she is referred to by the guys as 'Ruby The Skank,' her boyfriend calls her a 'Dago Wop Skank' and graffiti over the neighborhood informs people about her promiscuity. Yet she is not afraid to stand up for herself and is also a good friend to Richie.
  • Hypocrite: Vinnie is furious with Dionna after she has sex with someone else at an orgy they both attend — at which he is also having sex with other women.
  • I'm a Man; I Can't Help It: Vinny uses this excuse when confessing to Richie about his many infidelities. Richie isn't convinced.
  • Insane Troll Logic: Woodstock's rationale for Reggie Jackson being the Son of Sam — "What kind of guns does the killer use? 44 caliber, right? What's Reggie's number? 44." The others are dismissive of this.
  • Jerkass: Joey, and at times, Anthony and Brian, for the way they treat Richie and Ruby.
  • Just One Little Mistake: When the Son of Sam commits another of his murders, he comes back to his car to see it has a parking ticket. As a typical viewer of police procedural shows might guess, that proves a vital clue for the police to finally arrest him.
  • Lyrical Dissonance: Machine's There But for the Grace of God Go I is a chirpy number about a family moving away from the Bronx to somewhere with no blacks, Jews or gays.
  • Men Are Tough: Anthony, Brian and Joey are all overtly macho.
  • Missing White Woman Syndrome: A variant is Discussed when Lou and Curt go and ask mafioso Luigi for help in catching the serial killer who, so far, has only killed white women. As well as incredulous as to why the police are asking a criminal for help, Luigi wonders aloud why the police are expending so much effort on someone who's "only" killed four or five people, when in one night in predominantly-black Harlem you could expect seven or eight murders. Curt, a black police lieutenant, takes understandable offence.
  • N-Word Privileges: While nobody actually says the N-word, the guys are free to call Ruby a 'skank' whenever they like, but go crazy when an outsider calls her one, although it could be the fact he called her a 'Dago Wop Skank' which is offensive to Italian-Americans. They also take offense to being called 'Guido,' another derogatory word for Italian-Americans.
    Ruby's Boyfriend: "Fuck you, ya Dago Wop Skank!"
    Brian: "What did you just say? Dago Wop Skank? What are you fucking nuts?... Shut your fucking mouth, that's my fucking sister!"
  • A Party, Also Known as an Orgy: Vinny and Dionna are out for disco dancing and end up being dragged to a party by a photographer who stumbles out of Studio 54. It quickly turns into a drink-and-drug-fueled orgy.
  • Punk Rock: Richie and eventually Ruby too.
  • Rated M for Manly: This movie is the antithesis of a 'chick flick.'
  • Reality Ensues: What happens when you combine fear, paranoia, a sweltering summer and vigilante justice mobs?
  • Really Gets Around: Vinny just cannot keep his trousers on. Unlike most male examples, it's not shown in a remotely good light and even Vinny himself doesn't seem to enjoy it.
  • Sassy Black Woman: During Spike Lee's cameo as a news reporter, he interviews four black people in the predominantly black neighborhood of Bedford-Stuyvesant, the first black woman he interviews is young, sassy and sexy, but the second woman is older and thanks God that the killer and victims are both white as to avoid a race riot, she then scolds the reported for not liking black people, despite him being black himself.
  • Serial Killer: The infamous "Son of Sam."
  • Soundtrack Dissonance: There's a great many perky disco numbers playing over brutal scenes.
  • Take a Third Option: When Vinny and Richie are confronted in a restaurant because of Richie's punk rock attire, they are given the options of either leaving peacefully (which is unlikely) or getting in a fist fight with the other patrons, instead Richie breaks a bottle over his own head which confuses and scares everyone enough to defuse the situation.
    Richie (tasting his own blood): Tastes better than Heinz ketchup, you fuck!
  • Testosterone Poisoning: Vinny's friends are wall-to-wall testosterone.
  • Vigilante Execution: Richie narrowly avoids one when his Luger-toting stepfather informs the mob that the killer has already been caught.
  • Vitriolic Best Buds: Everyone is constantly arguing with everyone else but are extremely protective of one another, even to a misguided degree.
  • Your Mom: After Anthony and Brian throw a number of vulgar comments to Ruby, she hits them with a couple of "Your Mother" burns.
    Ritchie: "(to Ruby) You should come see my band play sometime."
    Brian: "Yeah, they really suck!"
    Anthony: "(to Ruby) Yeah, suck real good, like you!"
    Ruby: "Yeah, I learned from your mother, dick!"


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