Film review: ‘Do The Right Thing’

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Jacob Baker | Northern Star

The Criterion version of Spike Lee’s “Do The Right Thing” in front of an assortment of films.

Kyron Lewis, Lifestyle Writer

“Do The Right Thing” is a 1989 comedy-drama by director Spike Lee. The film is a splendid mix of comedy and social commentary. Even for an ‘80s film, the message will still resonate with modern audiences as if it was released yesterday.

The film explores the racial tensions of a Brooklyn neighborhood on one of the hottest days of the year. Mookie, played by Lee himself, is a mid-twenties Black pizza delivery man at a local pizzeria. For years, the pizzeria has been owned and operated by Sal, played by Danny Aiello, an Italian-American who resides in another New York neighborhood. Sal’s antagonistic and racist son Pino, played by John Turturro and friendly younger son Vito, played by Richard Edson, are fellow employees of the pizzeria. 

Throughout the course of the film, other distinctive characters from the neighborhood are introduced that provide the memorable laugh-out-loud performances of the film. 

Characters like Radio Raheem, played by Bill Nunn, play pivotal roles in the film’s chaotic and thought-provoking climax that will leave audiences truly wondering if Mookie actually did the right thing by destroying his own place of work by the end of the film.

This film is a masterclass in social commentary. From subtle historical Easter eggs to scenes that may make people uncomfortable to laugh at, this film will entertain. Make no mistake, by the end, it opens up avenues for important discussions and dialogue about not only the film itself, but racial equality, equity and tensions in America. 

Lee has made it almost a signature style of his to explore different aspects of topics dealing with race. A key theme of the film is racial injustice. This is why the film still resonates today because racial injustices similar to those in the film still happen, for instance last year there were protests and riots over the death of George Floyd, who was a black man that was murdered by police officer, Derek Chauvin. Floyd was suspected to have used a counterfeit $20 bill and Chauvin was one of four officers who arrived on the scene and he then knelt on Floyds neck and back for 9 minutes and 29 seconds. Years of police brutality and unjustified deaths had reached a boiling point with citizens around the country. 

A combination of frustration from racial injustice and lockdown restrictions due to the pandemic resulted in protests, riots and property damage. Eerily similar to the climax of the film, it is uncanny how much the film is a reflection of current sensibilities.

“Do The Right Thing” is unapologetic in its messaging, but nonetheless an amazing movie that will make you uncomfortable at times, not because it is unsettling in its humor, but because it makes the viewer look in the mirror and think about what’s wrong with the world as it is. 

Grab some snacks, relax and watch this classic film, but just be prepared to ask, “Did they do the right thing?”