Do The Right Thing

Tensions, rivalries, banter, squabbling, self-aggrandizement, and, above all, putdowns add to the hot air on this day in the life of Bedford–Stuyvesant, Brooklyn as the 98 percent Black (down to 70 percent in the last census) community and small mix of Hispanics, Whites, and Asians try to get along during a sweltering summer.

919th.covOr not. In writer/director/producer Spike Lee's celebratory Do The Right Thing, set firmly in a specific time (1989) and place (the block), there are shortages of both water and employment opportunities. Hence, rigidly separate generational and racial groups—made up of wonderfully comic characters played by a host of Black and Latino talent—just hang out on the streets dissing each other and trying to stay cool. But throw in police bias and all it takes is boombox music played maddeningly loud to trigger antagonisms that boil over into insults, violence, and rebellious rioting.


In this new transfer, created from a 4K scan of the 35mm original camera negative, all dirt, damage, and wear has been digitally fixed. Images are filled with highly saturated primary colors dominated by popping reds and bathed in blood orange lighting. Well-lit shots reveal deep focus and enough detail so that edges are sharp and individual LPs shelved at the community radio station and beer can labels in the Korean grocery are readable.


Bill Lee's jazz score fills the room, with instruments cleanly separated into each channel. "Fight the Power," by hip hop group Public Enemy, is stirring, loud, incredibly bass-heavy, and, just like the clever and still-funny dialogue, clear and resonating. Surround channels are also used to make the street atmosphere—cruiser sirens, callouts, and curses—immersive.


The two-disc set features an enjoyable commentary by the director and his cohorts, including cinematographer Ernest Dickerson who provides fascinating descriptions of the meaning behind camera movements. Lee introduces most extras, and, as you might expect, has the last word on this complex classic. Read-throughs, interviews, a wrap party shot by Lee and his brother, along with numerous deleted and extended scenes add to the fun. Disc two contains a vintage documentary chronicling the tough-but-tight Bed-Stuy community, interviews, and the film's 1989 Cannes Film Festival press conference. You also get the moving Lee-directed "Fight the Power" music video.

STUDIO: Criterion, 1989
AUDIO FORMAT: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
LENGTH: 120 mins.
STARRING: Spike Lee, Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Giancarlo Esposito