Red Hook Summer

Toni Lysaith, Clarke Peters and Jules Brown in “Red Hook Summer”

“Red Hook Summer,” the new film from writer and director Spike Lee, had the potential to tell a very good story.  Unfortunately, as happens with some films, the movie has an intriguing premise that it does not develop or pay off as well as it could have.

“Red Hook Summer” is a “fish out of water” story about Flik (Jules Brown) a suburban 13-year-old from the south.  Flik comes north to spend his summer vacation at a Brooklyn housing project, in Red Hook, with his “Hellfire and brimstone” preacher grandfather, Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters).  Being “saved” was not on Flik’s summer agenda, nor was working for a church.

The conflict between these two strong willed men, opposite personalities from the same family, had the potential for a compelling story.  All one has to do is take a look at the film’s trailer, on line, to see that this film has a good premise.  The reality though is a meandering narrative, with some good scenes and terrific gospel music, that never quite gels.  The script tries for some heft with what proves to be a completely out of left field plot point at the end of the film’s second act.  All this story needed for heft was to trust its main characters.

In terms of performances, Peters commands the film as a devout “take no prisoners” preacher of a small, poorly attended church, Little Heaven, located in the housing project.  The bishop’s faith in God and the possibility of a better world is convincing and drives the film.  Brown’s Flik is an appropriately defiant 13-year-old.  The film’s other characters are potentially interesting but, for the most part, are underdeveloped, save for Chazz Morningstar (Toni Lysaith) a young girl who befriends Flik.  Even here, I felt that more could have been mined from this relationship.

“Red Hook Summer” has been nicely photographed by cinematographer Kerwin DeVonish.  The movie has been digitally photographed and has an eye popping color palette.

Lee, whose last feature was 2008’s “Miracle at St. Anna,” seems to be returning to his film school, indie roots with a lower budget than some of his past projects, a small cast and a limited number of sets and locations.  There is nothing wrong with that.  “Red Hook Summer” is a good looking movie with a strong central performance.  The whole thing just needed more of a story.

“Red Hook Summer” is playing locally at Landmark Sunshine Cinema, 143 East Houston Street.

“Red Hook Summer” director Spike Lee, 2012,

Variance Films, 121 minutes, rated R

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About unpaidfilmcritic

Up until 2009 Seth Shire spent nearly two decades in the New York film industry as a post production supervisor of feature films. Highlights include working on the films of Martin Scorsese, James Toback and Spike Lee. Since leaving the film industry Seth has expanded into new and varied areas where he has found a great deal of satisfaction. Seth currently teaches in the Sociology Department of CUNY Queens College. His courses include "Mass Media and Popular Culture," "Introduction to Sociology," and "Sociology of Cinema" where he is a very popular teacher. Seth is also the film critic for "Town & Village," a Manhattan weekly newspaper, a position he has held for the past six years. Seth gives back to his community through volunteer teaching at Manhattan's "The Caring Community," a center for senior citizens, where he teaches a very popular course on documentaries called "The Golden Age of the Documentary. In the fall of 2010 Seth taught "Critical Reading and Writing" at Parsons School of Design. He has also taught "Cinema Studies" at the New York Film Academy. Seth lives in Stuyvesant Town, in Manhattan.

Posted on August 27, 2012, in New and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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