- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 20, 2021

Filmmaker Spike Lee‘s Academy Award-nominated, seminal social commentary on America from 1989 returns in the ultra-high definition format with a visual presentation as potent as its message of racism in Do the Right Thing (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Rated R, 1.85:1 aspect ratio, 120 minutes, $29.98).

Thirty-one years later and still as relevant as ever, the dramedy explores a heatwave’s worth of tensions in a day in the life of an ethnic rich Brooklyn neighborhood populated with a variety of colorful characters.

They include a kindly drunk nicknamed Da Mayor (Ossie Davis), neighborhood overseer Mother Sister (Ruby Dee), local DJ Mister Senior Love Daddy (Samuel L. Jackson), loud music aficionado Radio Raheem (Bill Nunn) and the mentally disabled Smiley (Roger Guenveur Smith).

The action centers around an old school pizza place owned by Sal (Danny Aiello) and staffed by his sons, the racist Pino (John Turturro), friend-to-all Vito (Richard Edson) and their 25-year-old delivery guy Mookie (Mr. Lee).

As the heat rises, so does the hate between the races and classes on the streets and within local businesses, culminating in violent acts, police brutality, a riot and another unfortunate life-like lesson in American history.

Pop culture aficionados should pay close attention to appreciate the appearance of Rosie Perez as Mookie’s girlfriend and comedian Martin Lawrence as a neighborhood teen (both in their feature film debuts); “The Mandalorian’s” Moff Gideon, Giancarlo Esposito, as activist Buggin’ Out; and John Savage, as Clifton, the yuppie in the neighborhood.

4K in action: No explanation exists as to whether Universal restored this classic, but it’s clear by the screen-filling 2160p presentation that the visual intensity shines in UHD thanks to the high dynamic range enhancements and suffocating choices of cinematographer Ernest Dickinson.

Opening credits with Miss Perez dancing to Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” awash in primary colors and lay the groundwork for a color-saturated effort further exposed by an orangish-yellow and red-tinged choice in nearly all scenes looking like the heat scorched the camera lens.

The color pop climaxes with a hot-red brick wall behind three men discussing the merits of Mike Tyson while the clarity shines down to counting the sweat droplets on all of the actors.

Best extras: Besides a new introduction by Mr. Lee before the film, owners get all of the bonus content from the 20th anniversary Blu-ray release for 2009 packed on to 4K disc.

First two optional commentary tracks are available, one with Mr. Lee from the anniversary edition and one much more informative from 1995 with Mr. Lee, Mr. Dickinson, production designer Wynn Thomas and actress Joie Lee (Mookie’s sister Jade in the film).

Next, three extended documentaries offer a comprehensive overview of the film and its legacy.

First, dive into a 36-minute retrospective from 2009 that mixes footage from the anniversary celebration at the Lincoln Center’s Walter Reade Theater with Mr. Lee interviewing and occasionally badgering some of his cast such as Miss Perez, Mr. Turturro, Mr. Guenveur Smith, Mr. Savage, Chuck D from Public Enemy and even words from Mr. Dickinson.

Next, an hour of vintage pre-production, raw footage as well as coverage of a post-shoot block party, all from 1988, captured on video 8 by Mr. Lee and his brother Cinque highlight the script read through, actors motivations and character development. By far, the segments feature some of the most honest moments with the cast of all of the documentaries.

Next, an almost hour overview of the production from 1988 directed by St. Claire Bourne touches on the Nation of Islam security detail, prepping and helping the neighborhood, casting, shooting schedules, script read throughs, rehearsals, plenty of actor and crew on-set interviews, and doses of social commentary from Mr. Lee.

Finally, a 42-minute post-screening panel discussion with audience questions at Cannes Film Festival from 1989 (on Malcom X’s birthday no less) featuring Mr. Lee on a soap box, Mr. Edson, Miss Lee, Mr. Davis and Miss Dee with English subtitles when required and moderated by film critic Henri Bahar.

Additionally, owners get 144 minutes or deleted or extended scenes, a 16-minute breakdown of the riot scene and 10 minutes with editor Barry Alexander Brown.

Surprisingly, this is not the definitive version of the movie in the home entertainment realms, Criterion’s 2019 Blu-ray release beats it with still more extras, but it’s certainly the best looking of all of the releases.

• Joseph Szadkowski can be reached at jszadkowski@washingtontimes.com.

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