Spike Lee

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Best films:
6.9 She's Gotta Have It (1986)
5.8 School Daze (1988)
7.1 Do the Right Thing (1989)
6.9 Mo' Better Blues (1990)
6.6 Jungle Fever (1991)
6.8 Crooklyn (1994)
6.8 Clockers (1995)
5.0 Girl 6 (1997)
6.0 He Got Game (1998)
6.9 Summer of Sam (1999)
6.8 Bamboozled (2000)
6.8 25th Hour (2002)
5.0 She Hate Me (2004)
7.1 Inside Man (2006)
5.0 Miracle at St. Anna (2008)
6.2 Red Hook Summer (2012)
5.8 Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014)
7.0 Chi-Raq (2015)
5.0 Pass Over (2018)
7.0 BlacKkKlansman (2018)
6.5 Da 5 Bloods (2020)

Spike Lee is an African-American director who led the crusade for the new alternative cinema by focusing on ordinary lives of poor black neighborhoods, that inevitably means violence and drugs.

He debuted with She's Gotta Have It (1986), shot in black and white on a shoestring budget, a chronicle of the messy love life of an independent woman (juggling three jealous lovers), a film which became famous for its frank depiction of urban black female sexuality.

School Daze (1988) was a weird musical comedy.

Do the Right Thing (1989) is a symphonic work, a work of counterpoint of a multitude of different voices, that provides a snapshot of the urban cityscape over the course of just one hot summer day. The film starts out as a modern version of Frank Capra's middle-class comedies and of the social melodrama of the 1930s, but soon dives into racial violence of a different kind. And violence is revealed as the identifying factor of urban life.

A sexy woman is dancing to hip hop music. A radio host, Mister Senor Love Daddy, wakes up his audience. A bum sells pictures of black celebrities in front of a church. It is a hot day in a black neighborhood in New York. Sal and his two sons open their pizzeria, that has been there forever. Mookie (played by Spike Lee himself) is his pizza-man, who delivers Sal's pizzas and gathers news and gossip for him. He works as a two-way communication channel between the white businessman and his black customers. Mookie is already a father, and his girlfriend, Tina, bugs him to take care of their baby boy. His sister, Jane, is a lady, for whom Sal has a lot of respect.
A Korean family has opened a grocery store across the street. Among the regular customers of the two stores are Da Mayor, an old wise man who knows everybody, Radio Raheem, a dumb giant who lives only for his boom box, and middle-aged Mother Sister, whom Da Mayor romances. Three old men sit under an umbrella on the sidewalk and gossip all day long The day is getting hotter. The blacks open an hydrant and play with in improvised fountain.
Sal has a wall covered with pictures of Italian celebrities and one black customer, the militant Buggin Out, objects loudly to it. Sal kicks him out. Whites are harassed by the street crowd and Buggin Out is the troublemaker. One of Sal's boys, Vito, is a racist: he hates blacks, hates the neighborhood and hates the pizzeria.
When he walks in to buy sandwiches, Sal asks Radio Raheem to turn down his boom box. Mookie himself is asking for money and Sal has to remind him the rules. Today, everybody seems to have a small problem with Sal.
Buggin Out decides to organize a boycott of Sal's pizzeria, but nobody in the neighborhood wants to hurt good old Sal. Only Radio Raheem sides with him. Together, they walk into Sal's pizzeria and announce the boycott. Sal destroys Radio Raheem's radio with a baseball bat and a giant fight erupts. Radio Raheem is strangling Sal when the police arrives. Buggin Out is easily handcuffed, but Radio Raheem fights to the last. One police officer loses control and kills him.
The good neighbors suddenly become all enemies, angry at white people. Da Mayor is the only one calling for calm. Mookie is the first one to crash a window. Then the whole crowd attacks. They take the money, destroy everything and burn the place. Sal's cherished pictures of Italian celebrities burn with it. Sal and his sons can only watch from the steps of their home. Mother Sister is the only black who cries in front of the fire.
The following morning Sal is sitting on the steps of his ruins. Mookie comes by: he still wants to be paid. Sal yells at him but then pays him what he owes him. Mookie implies that everything is back to normal. Sal can rebuild the place with insurance money and he, Mookie, will still work for him.
The first part is terribly slow, and quickly loses its appeal as populist comedy.

Mo' Better Blues (1990) was Lee's tribute to jazz, with memorable cinematography by Ernest Dickerson.

Jungle Fever (1991) is another racial comedy that turns into melodrama that turns into violent racial tragedy. There are two interlocking storylines. The main one is about the doomed interracial love story of a married African-American architect and an Italian-American secretary, and the second one (and better one) is about the downward spiral of a drug-addict.

Affluent, successful, morally impeccable African-American architect Flipper is happily married with business woman Drew. He is assigned a new secretary, an Italian-American, Angie. Angie lives with her father and brothers, an old-fashioned catholic family. She has taken their mother's place. She even cooks for them. Angie is engaged to Paulie, who works in a small restaurant with his old father, and who has been warned by Angie's brothers to respect her. Paulie is a good man and a good son, who lives with his father and honors his mother's memory.
Flipper's brother Gator is a drug addict whom their father, a former preacher, has banned from his house. But Gator occasionally visits his mother secretely.
Flipper and Angie fall in love and have sex in the office. It is the first time that he cheats on his wife.
Flipper has an argument with the board of his company and quits. Later that evening, Flipper tells a friend (played by Spike Lee himself) that he has an affair with a white woman. The friend is shocked.
Angie tells her girlfriends: same reaction. They are even disgusted.
Flipper meets his brother Gator: the two couldn't be more different. One reached the top, the other one fell to the bottom.
When Flipper gets home, he finds Drew who is making a scene, throwing his clothes down the window to the crowd of neighbors. He has to ask his parents for shelter and, of course, his strict father delivers him a sermon.
Drew and her girlfriends complain about black men (almost cinema verite`).
Flipper goes to apologize to Drew, a department store manager, but she sends him to hell. Drew, herself half-white, is paranoid about the power of light skin.
Angie tells Paulie that she is dating a black man, and he is devastated. She doesn't need to tell her father, who already heard the news and kicks her out.
Despite what he promised his wife, Flipper is more and more involved and rents an apartment for Angie and himself. But they have to face the harsh reality of racial separation: Flipper's father invites them over to dinner only to humiliate her, the police almost arrests him when they see them fighting for fun,
Paulie is increasingly attracted to the black lady who buys the newspaper every morning at his restaurant, and one day he tells her. She is only surprised, but his Italian buddies are positively outraged.
Gator steals the tv of his parents and Flipper has to dive into the alleys of poor neighborhoods in search of him. He wanders in the wasteland of drug addiction and prostitution, until he finds Gator and his hysterical girlfriend in a large room filled wih hundreds of people doing drugs. Flipper realizes that Gator can't be saved anymore.
Back to Angie, Flipper's bitter conclusion is that they don't have a future. Angie moves back to her family, but Paulie is not interested in her anymore. Paulie is dressing up for his date with the black woman. His father is furious, his friends beat him up. The whole world doesn't want him to go to his date. But he still walks to her apartment and rings the bell, all bloody and stinking.
Gator shows up again at his parents' house while his father is out, desperate for money. He has become a wild beast. He doesn't leave in time and his father has no mercy: he shoots him dead.
The film has two stories that cross almost accidentally: the racial theme and the drugs theme. The former is the main reason for the film to exist. The latter looks almost like a later addition. The latter, alas, also proves the weakness of the film, as it steals the show from the racial melodrama. The emotional peak of the film is certainly not the lovers' breakup, or the return of the prodigal daughter, or the heroic date. It is the murder of the son by the father. Even that is built on stereotypes, like everything else, but at least it has a bit of real drama.

The 200-minute Malcolm X (1992) is a biopic of the politician and a vibrant African-American epic.

Crooklyn (1994), set in the Brooklyn neighborhood where Lee grew up during the summer of 1973, is a nostalgic, bittersweet, autobiographic family drama.

Clockers (1995), based on a Richard Price novel and produced by Martin Scorsese, is a melancholy police drama about the routines of inner-city crime.

Girl 6 (1997), written by Suzan-Lori Parks, is a farce about a phone-sex operator.

Get on the Bus (1997)

Lee left behind his racial paranoia with He Got Game (1998), a different kind of domestic tragedy.

Jake, an African American, is in jail for having killed his wife. Jesus, Jake's son, is the top- rated high school basketball player in the country The warden tells Jake that the governor will commute his sentence to an early parole if he can convince his son to sign up for the governor's school. Jake is given one week of freedom to talk his son.
Jake doesn't know yet that he is not the only one who wants to influence Jesus' decision. Lala, Jesus ambitious girlfriend, wants him to meet a family friend. Agents and coaches want to talk to him. Jesus is honest and does not like the pressure, but he is too famous to be left alone.
In the meantime, Jake meets the couple next door, a (black) hooker and her (white) pimp.
Jake knows that Jesus doesn't want to have anything to do with him, so he first meets his little daughter and uses her to sneak into the (nice) apartment where she and Jesus live. Jesus shows him the door and refuses to talk to him. Then goes to ask his uncle for advice. But his uncle is more interested in making money out of Jesus' status. Jesus is depressed and confused by all the clamor and Jake turns out the only one who tells him to use his conscience.
Jake hears the pimp beat the prostitute and, when the pimp leaves, goes to console the prostitute.
It turns out that Lala is cheating on him with the "family friend". As the date of the decision approaches, agents and coaches start offering him money.
Jesus remembers his childhood, and how his father was instrumental in turning him into a champion. And the accident that caused his mother's death: Jake killed her, involuntarily, during an argument about basketball.
Jake understands that Lala is after Jesus' money and tries to work out a deal with her, but her "friend" steps in and Jake has to hit him.
Jake, six years without sex, hires the prostitute, who makes love with him for real.
Jesus breaks up with Lala once he understands her greed. Jake challenges him to a one-to-one basketball game: if he wins, Jesus signs the letter for the governor; if he loses, he will leave Jesus alone forever. Jesus wins and sees the prison officers handcuff and take away his father.
Finally, it's time to make the decision, and Jesus chooses the governor's college. But technically Jake failed his mission, so he has to remain in jail until the governor makes up his mind.
In the last scene Jake is playing basketball by himself and walks past the boundaries. A guardian is about to shoot him. Jake throws the ball above the wall, and the ball falls into the gymn where Jesus is practicing. Jake, who seemed intent in committing suicide by having the guards shoot him, walks back. Jesus grabs the ball, looks up and smiles.
The corrupt race to recruit top high school athletes is the pretext for describing a far more corrupt game, the one of a father trying to win his son's trust. Too many unfinished characters (Lala, the prostitute, the uncle) and an embarassing ending detract from a film that looks more like a personal tribute to a sport than a meaningful story.
(Translation by/ Tradotto da Alessia Fabbri)

Spike Lee e` un regista afroamericano che, ritraendo vite ordinarie di abitanti dei quartieri neri poveri, immancabilmente legate a circuiti di droga e violenza, ha guidato la crociata per il nuovo cinema alternativo americano.

Do the Right Thing (1989) e` un'opera sinfonica, un'opera di contrappunto di un gran numero di voci diverse, che ci offre un'istantanea del paesaggio urbano durante il corso di una singola giornata. Il film inizia come una versione moderna delle commedie sul ceto medio di Frank Capra e del melodramma a sfondo sociale degli anni 30', per sfociare in una violenza razziale di tipo diverso. E la violenza si rivela un fattore caratterizzante della vita urbana.

Una donna sexy balla a ritmo di hip hop. Un conduttore radiofonico, Mister Senor Love Daddy, d… il buon giorno al suo pubblico. Un barbone vende foto di celebrit… nere davanti a una chiesa. E` una giornata calda in un quartiere nero di New York. Sal e i suoi due figli aprono la loro pizzeria, che esiste da sempre. Mookie (Spike Lee) e` il portapizze, che ad ogni consegna riporta notizie e pettegolezzi a Sam, fungendo da canale di comunicazione a doppio senso tra il bianco uomo d'affari e i suoi clienti neri. Mookie e` gi… padre e la sua ragazza, Tina, lo assilla affinche' si prenda cura del piccolo. Sua sorella, Jane, e` una donna molto rispettata da Sal.

Una famiglia coreana ha aperto un negozio di alimentari dall'altra parte della strada. Tra i clienti abituali dei due negozi ci sono Da Mayor, un vecchio saggio che conosce tutti, Radio Raheem, un gigante taciturno che vive solo per la sua scatola del suono e Mother Sister, una signora di mezza et… corteggiata da Da Mayor. Tre anziani siedono tutto il giorno sotto un ombrellone sul marciapiede, chiaccherando. La temperatura va salendo. I neri aprono un idrante e giocano con la fontana improvvisata. L'attivista nero Buggin Out protesta a viva voce contro le foto di celebrit… italiane appese a una parete nel negozio di Sal, che lo butta fuori. I bianchi sono importunati dalla gente di strada e Buggin Out ne e` l'agitatore. Uno dei ragazzi di Sal, Vito, e` un razzista, odia i neri, odia il quartiere e odia la pizzeria. Quando Radio Raheem entra per comprare dei panini, Sal gli chiede a di spegnere la scatola del suono. Lo stesso Mookie chiede un prestito a Sal, che deve ricordargli le regole. Sembra che oggi tutti abbiano qualche piccolo problema con Sal.

Buggin Out decide di organizzare un boicottaggio della pizzeria, ma nessuno nel quartiere vuole nuocere al buon vecchio Sal. Solo Radio Raheem si associa. Insieme entrano nella pizzeria e annunciano il boicottaggio. Sal distrugge la radio di Radio Raheem con una mazza da baseball e scoppia una rissa. Radio Raheem sta strangolando Sal quando arriva la polizia. Buggin Out viene subito ammanettato, mentre Radio Raheem combatte fino in fondo. Un ufficiale di polizia perde il controllo e lo uccide.

Improvvisamente i buoni vicini divengono tutti dei nemici dei bianchi. Da Mayor e` l'unico che cerca di riportarli alla calma. Mookie e` il primo a rompere una finestra della pizzeria. Poi e` l'intera folla ad attaccare. Prendono i soldi, la distruggono e infine le danno fuoco. Le adorate fotografie di Sal bruciano con essa. Sal e i suoi figli non possono far altro che guardare dalla soglia di casa. Mother Sister e` l'unica nera a piangere di fronte all'incendio.

Il mattino seguente Sal e` seduto sulle macerie. Arriva Mookie: vuole ancora la paga. Sal gli urla contro ma poi gli paga il dovuto. Mookie lascia intendere che tutto e` tornato come prima. Sal puo` ricostruire la pizzeria con i soldi dell'assicurazione e Mookie lavorer… ancora per lui.

La prima parte e` terribilmente lenta e perde presto qualsiasi fascino di commedia populista.

Jungle Fever (1991) e` un'altra commedia razziale che diviene melodramma che diviene violenta tragedia razziale.

Flipper, un architetto afroamericano moralmente impeccabile, benestante e di successo, e` felicemente sposato con Drew, una donna d'affari. Gli viene assegnata una nuova segretaria, Angie, italoamericana. Angie vive con suo padre e suoi fratelli: una famiglia cattolica all'antica. Lei ha preso il posto della madre e cucina anche per loro. Angie e` fidanzata con Paulie, che lavora in un piccolo ristorante con l'anziano padre. I fratelli di Angie lo hanno ammonito di rispettare la sorella. Paglie e` un brav'uomo e un buon figlio, vive con il padre e onora la memoria della madre.

Gator, fratello di Flipper e` un tossicodipendente che e` stato scacciato dal padre, un ex-pastore. Ma a volte Gator fa visita alla madre in segreto.

Flipper ed Angie si innamorano e fanno l'amore in ufficio. E` la prima volta che lui tradisce la moglie.

Flipper litiga con i dirigenti della sua azienda e si licenzia. La sera stessa racconta ad un amico (Spike Lee) che ha una storia con una donna bianca. L'amico e` scioccato.

Angie lo racconta alle sue amiche: stessa reazione. Sono addirittura disgustate.

Flipper incontra il fratello: sono completamente diversi. Uno e` arrivato in alto, l'altro ha toccato il fondo.

Quando Flipper arriva a casa, Drew sta facendo una scenata e gettando i suoi vestiti giu` dalla finestra alla folla di vicini. Lui e` costretto a chiedere ospitalit… ai genitori e, naturalmente, il severo padre gli fa una predica.

Drew e le amiche si lamentano degli uomini neri (quasi cinema verite').

Flipper va a scusarsi dalla moglie, manager di un grande magazzino, ma lei lo manda al diavolo. Essendo meticcia, Drew e` paranoica riguardo al potere della pelle bianca.

Angie dice a Paulie che sta uscendo con un uomo di colore, e` lui e` distrutto. Non ha bisogno di raccontarlo al padre, che lo ha gi… saputo e la caccia via.

Nonostante cio` che ha promesso alla moglie, Flipper e` sempre piu` coinvolto e affitta un appartamento per lui ed Angie. Ma i due devono affrontare la dura realt… della discriminazione razziale. Il padre di Flipper li invita a cena solo per umiliarla e la polizia quasi lo arresta quando li sorprende a picchiarsi per gioco.

Paulie e` sempre piu` attratto dalla donna nera che compra il giornale ogni mattino nel suo ristorante, e un giorno decide di dirglielo. Lei ne e` suolo stupita, ma i suoi amici italiani sono positivamente offesi.

Gator ruba il televisore ai genitori e Flipper e` costretto a gettarsi nelle vie dei quartieri poveri per ritrovarlo. Vaga nella desolazione della tossicodipendenza e della prostituzione, fino a che trova Gator e la sua isterica ragazza in uno stanzone dove centinaia di persone si drogano. Flipper capisce che Gator non potr… mai piu` essere salvato.

Ritornando ad Angie, l'amara conclusione di Flipper e` che insieme non hanno futuro. Angie torna dalla sua famiglia, ma Paulie non la vuole piu`. Paulie si sta preparando per incontrarsi con la donna nera. Suo padre e` furioso, i suoi amici lo aggrediscono. Il mondo intero non vuole che vada all'appuntamento. Cio` nonostante va da lei e suona il suo campanello sanguinante e maleodorante,.

Mentre il padre e` fuori, Gator si fa vivo a casa dei suoi, alla disperata ricerca di denaro. E` diventato una belva feroce. Non se ne va in tempo e suo padre non ha piet…: gli spara uccidendolo.

Il tema razziale e quello delle droghe, si intersecano quasi per caso. Il primo e` quello su cui si snoda il film. Il secondo sembra quasi un'aggiunta. Il secondo, inoltre, indebolisce il film, rubando lo spazio al melodramma razziale. L'apice emozionale del film non e` sicuramente lo scioglimento della coppia, ne' il ritorno della figliola prodiga, ne' l'eroico appuntamento, bensŤ l'assassinio del figlio da parte del padre. Pur essendo anch'essa costruita su stereotipi, questa parte ha almeno un po' di drammaticit….

Lee mette via la sua paranoia razziale con He Got Game (1998), un tipo diverso di tragedia domestica.

Jake, afroamericano, e` in carcere l'assassinio della moglie. Jesus, suo figlio, e` il piu` quotato giocatore di pallacanestro delle scuole del paese. Il preside dice a Jake che il governatore lo far… scarcerare se riuscir… a convincere il figlio a iscriversi alla scuola del governatore. A Jake viene concessa una settimana di libert… per parlare al figlio. Jake ancora non sa che non e` l'unico a voler influenzare la decisione del figlio. Lala, l'ambiziosa ragazza di Jesus, vuole che incontri un amico di famiglia. Agenti e allenatori vogliono parlargli. Jesus e` onesto e` non gradisce la pressione, ma e` troppo famoso per essere lasciato da solo.

Nel frattempo, Jake incontra i vicini, un'adescatrice (nera) e una prostituta (bianca). Jake sa che Jesus non vuole aver niente a che fare con lui, quindi incontra per prima sua figlia minore e se ne serve per infiltrarsi nell'appartamento (carino) dove vive con Jesus, che gli indica la porta e si rifiuta di parlargli. Poi va a chiedere consiglio a suo zio. Ma questi e` piu` interessato a sfruttare la notoriet… di Jesus. Il ragazzo e` depresso e confuso da tutto il clamore e Jake si rivela essere l'unico a consigliargli di ascoltare la coscienza. Jake sente l'adescatrice picchiare la prostituta e, quando questa se ne va, va a consolare la ragazza.

Si scopre che Lala tradisce Jesus con l' "amico di famiglia". Con l'avvicinarsi della data della decisione, gli agenti e gli allenatori cominciano a offrire denaro a Jesus.

Il ragazzo ripensa alla sua infanzia e a quanto il padre lo abbia strumentalizzato facendolo diventare un campione. E all'incidente che ha causato la morte della madre: Jake l'ha uccisa involontariamente, durante una lite sulla pallacanestro.

Jake intuisce che Lala e` interessata ai soldi di Jesus e cerca di accordarsi con lei, ma l'"amico" si intromette e Jake lo colpisce.

Jake, dopo sei anni di astinenza sessuale, paga la prostituta che fa l'amore con lui sul serio.

Jesus lascia Lala quando si accorge della sua avidit…. Jake lo sfida uno contro uno a pallacanestro: se vince, Jesus dovr… firmare la lettera per il governatore; se perde, dovr… lasciare Jesus per sempre. Il figlio vince e vede le guardie carcerarie portarsi via suo padre. Finalmente, e` tempo di prendere una decisione, e Jesus sceglie il college del governatore. Ma tecnicamente Jake ha fallito la sua missione, e deve quindi rimanere in carcere fino a che il governatore non si decider…. Nell'ultima scena Jake gioca a pallacanestro da solo e supera il confine del carcere. Una guardia sta per sparargli. Jake tira la palla al di l… del muro, nella palestra dove Jesus si sta allenando. Jake, che sembrava voler farsi uccidere, torna indietro. Jesus, prende la palla, guarda in alto e sorride.

La corruzione implicata nel reclutamento dei migliori atleti delle scuole superiori e` il pretesto per descrivere un gioco ancor piu` corrotto, quello di un padre che cerca di conquistare la fiducia del figlio. Troppi personaggi incompleti (Lala, la prostituta, lo zio) e un finale imbarazzante vanno a scapito di un film che sembra piu` un personale tributo allo sport che una storia convincente.

Lee crafted the documentary 4 Little Girls (1997) about the Alabama church bombing of 1963.

Get on the Bus (1996), written by Reggie Bythewood, is an ensemble piece that follows a group of black men traveling in 1995 to Louis Farrakhan's "Million Man March" in Washington.

Summer of Sam (1999), mostly set in an Italian-American neighborhood of the Bronx during the hot summer of 1977, when New York was terrorized by the "Son of Sam" serial killer, is an affectionate tribute to the middle class focused on two childhood friends (a punk rocker and an unfaithful husband).

Bamboozled (2000) is a funny but a little sloppy satire of the television industry.

The Original Kings of Comedy (2000) is a documentary of live performances by some of the most famous African-American comedians of the time.

25th Hour (2002), based on David Benioff's novel "The 25th Hour" (2001), is one of his most intellectual films, a lengthy meditation disguised as a chronicle of a drug dealer's last day of freedom.

She Hate Me (2004) is a mediocre and overlong political film.

When the Levees Broke (2006) is a four-part documentary about the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.

Lee abandoned the intellectual tone and went mainstream with the caper thriller Inside Man (2006), a fast-paced clockwork written by Russell Gewirtz. The "noir" detective is pitted against two enemies: on one hand the brainy, college-educated heist mastermind, who consistently anticipates his moves and eventually eludes capture, and on the other hand the rich chairman of the bank, exemplary of a class that knows no moral values.

The film begins with a man named Dalton who describes the who, the what, the when, the how of a bank heist that he carried out, but also tells us that he is locked in something that amounts to a prison cell. The film flashes back to the actual robberty. Customers are standing in lines inside a major bank and the staff is busy in several offices. Four people dressed like painters but wearing a face mask get out of a van parked in front of the bank. They rush into the bank armed with semiautomatic guns and create panic throwing gas grenades. They lock the front door. A neighborhood cop sees smoke coming out of the door and peeks inside, and is told by a gunman that they have hostages. The cop calls the police station to report the hostage situation. Inside the robbers tell the 50 hostages to undress and then tell them to wear the same kind of painter robes that they (the robbers) are wearing as well as the same kind of face masks (this way the police cannot tell who is the criminal and who is the hostage). One of the robbers is Dalton, who directs the operations. The other three mainly work in the storage room, digging a hole in the floor. An African-American detective, Keith (Denzel Washington), is assigned the job. He has a sexy girlfriend who waits him at home, and is troubled by false accusations that he pocketed some money. Dozens of cops surround the building. Meanwhile, the old chairman of the bank, Arthur, is informed by his secretary of the situation. He immediately makes a phone call to a lady named Madeleine (Jody Foster) who has just been hired by Osama bin Laden's nephew to help him buy real estate in New York. Arthur has learned that she specializes in delicate and borderline illegal cases, and tells her that there is a safety box in the bank that contains something that is valuable to him. He is willing to reward her generously if she makes sure that the safety box does not become public. Madeleine in turn visits the mayor of the city, who apparently owes her a favor, and demands that the mayor tells detective Keith to let her deal directly with the hostages. Meanwhile, the hostages have sent out a Sikh man (beaten up by the cops who mistake him for an Arab terrorist) with a suitcase that has their demands written on it: they want an airplane to escape. When the robbers demand food, the cops deliver pizzas in boxes that contain transmitters. The cops however can't make sense of the conversations that they hear from the transmitters because they are in a unknown language. They broadcast them to the crowd of curious people assembled before and one utility worker recognizes it as Albanian because his ex-wife was Albanian. The cops track down the woman and she laughs when she hears the recordings: they are tapes of old speeches by Albanian's long-dead communist dictator. Meanwhile, Madeleine enters the building and negotiates with Dalton (who calls himself "Steve"). Dalton tells Madeleine that he robbed the bank precisely to take the valuables that Arthur does not want to lose: they prove that the young Arthur during World War II got rich by working for the Nazis and founded that bank on the blood of slaughtered Jews. Madeleine offers him money in vain to destroy the valuables. Keith senses that something is not right in the robbery. He bluffs and tells Dalton/Steve that he has the airplane ready but first needs to check in person that all the hostages are alive. Dalton lets him in and for the first time they talk in person. After seeing the hostages, Keith tries to disarm Dalton. Another robber arrives and saves Dalton, but Keith notices that neither shot him. His conclusion is that these robbers are not the kind that kills people, they are white-collar criminals. However, minutes later Dalton/Steve shoots a hostage near a window so that the cops can see it. At this point the police chief removes Keith from his post, although Keith gets promoted because he accepted to collaborate with the powerful Madeleine. The cops decide to storm the bank but the challenge is that they cannot tell hostages from criminals because everybody wears the same robes. They therefore decide to use rubber bullets. Before they can enter the building, however, Keith realizes that Dalton has been listening to them: there was a "bug" in the suitcase. Pandemonium ensues. The criminals release all the hostages that are showered with rubber bullets by the cops because the cops cannot tell who is a criminal. The cops then enter the building and find nobody, clearly a sign that the criminals are outside pretending to be hostages. The cops also find that the guns were toy guns and that no hostage was killed. More puzzling is the fact that nothing seems to be missing: the robbers didn't rob the bank. Throughout this first part of the film we have seen flash-forwards in which Keith interrogates the hostages one by one, trying to find out if any of them is one of the four robbers. All of them, however, can prove their innocence. Keith reports his frustration to the police chief, who simply tells him to close the case: nobody got hurt, nothing was stolen. Keith, however, continues to investigate and finds out that one safety box is not listed in the bank's records: 392. Keith confronts Madeleine to find out what she knows. She threatens him if he doesn't stop investigating but he reveals that he taped their previous conversation in which she made incriminating statements. Madeleine reports back to Arthur that the robber, whoever he is, has the valuables. Arthur confesses that these are documents, diamonds, and a ring that belonged to a Jewish friend whom Arthur delivered to the Nazis. Dalton speaks to the camera like at the beginning and this time we realize that he is hiding in the hole made by the robbers in the storage room. He took the documents that incriminate Arthur, perhaps to blackmail him in the future, and the diamonds, but not the ring. He is ready to come out after hiding there for a week. As he always told Keith, he plans to just walk out of the front door. He picks up his bags and starts walking. Outside his three accomplices (who had gotten out amidst the hostages) are waiting in a car. Just then Keith walks into the bank. As the two pass each other, Dalton deliberately bumps into Keith: Dalton has seen Keith's face but Keith has never seen the face of "Steve" who was always wearing a face mask. Keith has gotten authorization to open the mysterious safety box number 392 but finds only the ring and evidence that "Steve" took the rest including a note to "follow the ring". Keith walks into Arthur's office who confesses what he did as a young man but also claims to have spent his life doing a lot of good. Keith then walks into a restaurant where Madeleine is having lunch with the mayor and tells her that he has informed the office of war crimes of Arthur's war crimes. Keith then goes home where his sexy girlfriend is eagerly waiting for him. As he undresses, Keith realizes that he has a diamond in his pocket. He then remembers the stranger who bumped into him at the bank and realizes that the mysterious "Steve" gifted him a diamond. He is a good cop, after all.

Miracle at St. Anna (2008) is a mediocre war melodrama set in Italy during World War II.

Saint John of Las Vegas (2009)

Passing Strange (2009) is a musical written by musicians Stew (Mark Stewart) and Heidi Rodewald.

Red Hook Summer (2012) is a sloppy and overlong New York drama in the vein of Do The Right Thing, but it feels improvised.

Oldboy (2013) was a terrible (terrible) remake of Park Chan-wook's 2003 film.

Da Sweet Blood of Jesus (2014) is de facto a remake of Bill Gunn's horror movie Ganja and Hess (1973).

Chi-Raq (2015), set in the crime-infested Southside neighborhood of Chicago, fuses graphic novel, musical, chamber theater, comedy and Aristophanes' "Lysistrata".

Pass Over (2018), shot in a theater, is the adaptation of a play by Antoinette Nwandu.

BlacKkKlansman (2018) is the biopic of an African-American undercover cop who infiltrated the racist Ku Klux Klan.

Da 5 Bloods (2020) is another historical war drama, this time set during the Vietnam War.