Do the Right Thing (1989)


The store is located in one of the streets of Brooklyn during a hot sunny day. He deals with Salo (Danny Aiello), the owner of a pizzeria he has run for 25 years, and Muki (played by Spike Lee), a young black man who works as a pizza delivery man. In the last few years, the neighborhood has changed drastically and Pinho (John Turturro), one of Sal’s sons, insists on selling the pizzeria and moving, which Sal refuses – he sees himself as part of the community and is proud of that fact. However, what seems to be a complaint of one of the guests soon brings the frustration of the neighborhood to light, and thus the violence…

This short trivia does not even remotely describe the rich and colorful world of events and characters that change during the film. Spike Lee wanted to show a lot, starting from a character who supports a child and just wants his money, through local bleachers and losers, to people who run a business in an area where, more or less, they are not desirable because of the color of their skin. He added specific characters to them, such as a character who plays the same song non-stop on a tape recorder or a sick guy who sells photos of black leaders, and made an interesting, harmonious and convincing combination that does not allow the film to lose interest at any time.

Muki’s character is certainly a central character and we see a lot from his perspective. He is only interested in the salary and mostly quarrels with Salo and Pinja because of his bad work ethic. While delivering the pizza, we indirectly meet additional characters, and thus the story gets its subplots, which are not there to fill the time, but have meaning and a point. I will cite examples of an older man with a big heart who is ridiculed by teenagers because he is an alcoholic or a trio of lazy people who mind that the Korean immigrant store is doing well. Tension is felt at every step (battle between Puerto Ricans and Radio Rahim or a problem caused by accidental trampling of sneakers), and police presence is very common.

In the constellation of colorful characters, two extremes stand out, which are Pinjo and Bagin Out. Their views of the world are opposite, brought to the brink of extinction, but it cannot be said that they are antiheroes in the classical sense. Pinho can be said to be a racist, but we are not sure whether such an attitude is the product of a workplace that hates or true hatred towards blacks, especially because of the famous black personalities (Magic, Eddie Murphy, Prince). On the other hand, Bagin Out does not understand the concept of climbing Americans of Italian descent in an area full of blacks. That is why he calls for a boycott of the pizzeria, which will finally lead to an escalation of violence.

I have to admit that I was impressed by the direction of Spike Lee, who brilliantly combined longer shots of the location or longer shots of dialogue with zooming in on individual characters. In that way, he showed that the street is a picturesque whole that at first glance seems to be all right, but by zooming in it evokes an outburst of frustration or drama that is just happening. There is a striking scene in which the characters speak of racist insults to the camera, which is then replaced by the slow operation of a crane that captures a wide frame and light music – as if the author wants to say say what you have, so let’s get back to normal life.

The finale of the film brings quotes from Martin Luther King and Malcolm X related to violence, in which they have opposing views. The title itself says do the right thing, but it remains to be seen whether the characters did the right thing and, if not, what they should have done. The script intelligently depicts the daily life of American racism and prejudice, but at no point does it provide answers. It effectively shows how most people (both good and bad) find themselves between two extremes, often confused, but they are a little lacking in joining one faction under the influence of the environment or events – passive participants are also participants.