I happen to know that Spike Lee reads, or is at least familiar with Madame Noire. After one of our writers, said that Red Hook Summer was a sequel to Do the Right Thing he was quick to correct us with a sharply worded e-mail.
“RED HOOK SUMMER IS NOT A SEQUEL TO DO THE RIGHT THING.INCORRECT,MISINFORMED AND WRONG. Thanks,Spike.”
As a fan of Spike Lee’s, I knew that e-mail came from him. The string of adjectives and the shouting caps is so Spike. If I had no intention of seeing Red Hook Summer before, this e-mail made sure that I was definitely going to check it out now.
For Red Hook Summer, Spike Lee brought it back to Brooklyn, chronicling the lives of the residents in the Red Hook projects. The project, which is both community-centered, a place for childhood exploration and spiritual salvation is also a place of violence and dashed hopes. We see all of these forces at work as the film’s protagonist “Flik Royale,” a boy from Atlanta, played by burgeoning actor Jules Brown, visits his grandfather,“Da Good Bishop Enoch Rouse,” (Clarke Peters of The Wire and Treme). As you can gather from his name Bishop Enoch, who is very religious serves as the leader for the Lil’ Peace of Heaven Baptist Church of Red Hook. Initially, Flik and Bishop Enoch struggle to relate to one another. Flik doesn’t want to be there and the Bishop can’t seem to reach his grandson with his new high tech gadgets. Flik carries around an iPad, which almost gets he and his grandfather into trouble with the local gang, lead by “Box” (Nate Parker). Though Flik initially loathes everything about Brooklyn, he meets a girl his age, Chazz, (Toni Lysaith), who shows him the ropes and the two become friends…and eventually a bit more.
Without giving too much away, there’s a shocking surprise towards the end of the film that causes the audience to question everything about Bishop Enoch and his spirituality. With the plot twist, like the setting, the characters and even religion itself, we see that there truly is, as Spike Lee has said, “beauty in ugliness.”
We see that motif in Deacon Zee (Thomas Jefferson Byrd), the alcoholic clergyman who helps Flik adjust to Brooklyn by allowing him to sneak chips from the church pantry. And we see it again with Bishop Enoch who is so religiously-minded that he’s unable or unwilling to relate to the challenges of the world around him.
Red Hook is not perfect and won’t go down as one of Spike’s best movies. There is the swift plot shift, unanswered questions in character development between Enoch and his daughter “Colleen,” and even sub-par acting from the younger actors; but the themes present and the questions the film raises, definitely make it one worth seeing.
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