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Date TimeAugust 02, 2019
VoiceRacial tensions hit boiling point on the Brooklyn streets in a masterwork whose relevance remains starker than ever
Do the Right Thing review – Spike Lees towering, timeless tour de force
Five years ago, for the film’s 25th anniversary, Spike Lee threw a big party with a special video message from Barack and Michelle Obama, who had gone to see Do the Right Thing on their first date. Now it is getting a UK re-release in honour of its 30th – and the context is very different. The implied happy ending of the Obama era has been unceremoniously amputated and we are back with the moods of anger and uncertainty that drove the film in the first place. When careworn pizzeria proprietor Sal (Danny Aiello) says he is thinking of quitting and turning his place into a condominium called Trump’s Pizza or Trump’s Plaza, the dialogue lands with a slap. (Although it is easy for Brit critics to get overexcited about eerily prophetic references to Donald Trump in movies from the 80s and 90s, not quite appreciating how ubiquitous he has been in American popular culture for the last 30 years.)
Do the Right Thing has plenty more material that is absolutely relevant right now. “If this hot weather continues, it’s going to melt the polar ice caps and the whole wide world,” says one of the three idle guys hanging out opposite Sal’s. In 1989, the line was a metaphor for disaster in the social climate. And of course the ending, with a black man killed in a police chokehold, could have been filmed at any time since 1989.

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