First off, the characters in Spike Lee’s Red Hook Summer looked as real as if you had stepped out of your front door, caught the subway and made your rounds through the no holds barred city of New York. Lee did a good job in the casting process: no over sexualized, glam puss, pretty boy actors/actresses here. The Female characters were maternal, womanly; like ladies I grew up around. Their presence emanates an old school grandmotherly type of protection, wisdom, and guidance.
The male characters seemed to be plucked right off of NYC’s streets; ripe with unabashed quirkiness, eccentricity, zeal, Martin Luther King righteousness and ’round the way B-Boy demeanor and dialect.
One of the Protagonists of Red Hook: the good Pastor Enoch (Clarke Peters), has all the passion, community involvement, and heated sermons of a street corner ‘hood preacher’, with such optimism, social justice, and fervor that riles up the emotions of the congregation, that the pastor could easily be mistaken a demagogue. He is perfectly cast; from his slicked back afro, peremptory voice, to the flawless execution of the dichotomy of his character.
New comer Jules Brown embodies the role of Flik Royale, Pastor Enoch’s grandson. Jules’ portrayal of character Flik is quite monotone, with the exception of culture/religion clashes with his grandfather, and adolescent banter with character Chazz.
Chazz, played by Tony Lysaith, is a spunky, rambunctious, outspoken girl whom befriends Flik. Chazz’s character is Akin to a throwback 1980’s era, popular 5th grade school kid, who all the nerd’s wanted to be friends with. What I personally like about Chazz is that she is headstrong, a thinker, much a philosopher for a kid her age; not to mention a little mischievous, which drives the story and adds a few good laughs! Contrarily, with better direction Chazz’s performance could have been much more solid.
Lee is a little more preachy in Red Hook compared to his previous movies, however it is eloquently executed through the diatribes of the good Pastor Enoch. The writing is a collage of new age pop culture, Sunday morning church sermons, pressing concerns of the inner city neighborhood, to the history of Red Hook, Brooklyn. Although, some topics of discussion seem outdated. Lee’s polemics is ever present in his current piece. While Red Hook draws you into a seeming adolescent romance between Flik and Chazz, and visually stimulates with colorful visages and homage to the city; the plot hits you like a wielding baseball bat swung by a bullied, abused, and fed up kid! While the movie is fluidly moving along, it comes out of nowhere and jars you: BAM! just like that!
A stiff-necked religious church lady would easily turn into Esther from Sanford & Son at the subject matter’s in-your-face reality! The audience gets to hear the other side of the story, which was a well acted and executed scene that left one not knowing whether to cheer for its redemptor or feel sorry for the Pastor. In the scene that follows, I felt that Lee didn’t need to expound in detail the horrid visuals via a flashback.
Overall, the movie had quite a few loop holes, loose ends, and left many questions unanswered. The acting was mediocre at best, with the exception of a few stand out performances: Clarke Peters, Nate Parker, and my personal best: Coleman Domingo.
Some of my friends were disturbed by the movie’s subject matter, but I have personally experienced it first hand. It leaves so much frustration, anger, and lifelong healing to the persons affected by it. Though uneasy to watch, it is realism! And, it’s happening on a much too frequent basis. Maybe this movie will allow the “doers” to see themselves outside of themselves, to provoke change. Moreover, the soundtrack, which was recorded by the real, Lil’ Piece of Heaven Babtist Church choir, nostalgically takes you back to the old time Gospel Hymns. After reading this review, I would advise you to see the movie at your own discretion.
One thing the movie did leave me with is the commonly quoted: Galatians 6:7-8. What you sow, goes out and circles around in the spirit realm like a boomerang until it eventually comes back to you. Even though you may have repented and God has forgiven you, you will still have to live with its consequences, so choose wisely!