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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewvideo review out of 4 Movie Review: Clockers

Starring: Harvey Keitel, John Turturro
Director: Spike Lee
Rated: R
RunTime: 129 Minutes
Release Date: September 1995
Genres: Drama, Suspense

*Also starring: Mekhi Phifer, Delroy Lindo, Keith David, Isaiah Washington, Pee Wee Love, Regina Taylor, Tom Byrd, Sticky Fingaz

Review by Andrew Hicks
3½ stars out of 4

Spike Lee strikes again, with another story of trouble in the hood. CLOCKERS shows us the influence older people have on young people and why innocent people sometimes take the rap for people they love. In this case, responsible brother Victor confesses to a murder his brother, Strike (don't ask about the name--my guess is his parents were big fans of either bowling or baseball), actually committed. It's a long story (about two hours and ten minutes worth), but Strike was following orders from his boss Rodney, who got absolutely no respect from the victim.

Strike is a clocker. No, he doesn't manufacture timepieces, he does something infinitely more illegal, selling crack. (It's a shame people throw their lives away raising money for their crack addiction when they can get it free by watching "NYPD Blue." One of life's better-kept secrets, I guess.) Strike isn't just protected by his brother, he also has an older cop named Andre looking out for him. Apparently, the two of them were once good friends, until the dangerously lethal world of drug dealing lured Strike into its menacing claws, as revealed by this line of dialogue--while Strike is riding in Andre's cop car, handcuffed: STRIKE: These cuffs is tight. ANDRE: You and me used to be tight.

Yes, it sounds every bit as corny in the movie as it does on paper, but I can forgive the occasional lapse in good drama the same way I can forgive the speech every character eventually gives, from clockers Strike and Rodney to cops Andre and Harvey Keitel, who plays the homicide detective convinced Victor is covering up for his brother. Keitel and John Turturro, who is mostly kept in the background as Keitel's partner, are the token white guys in the movie.

Making matters worse, Strike takes a liking to a child named Tyrone, who looks up to the drug dealer as a hero. Strike casually shows Tyrone how to handle a gun and cut cocaine properly, remembering of course to tell Tyrone not to do those things himself because drugs and violence are bad. Needless to say, the hasty disclaimers contradicting the long monologues that precede them are ineffective, and soon Tyrone is imitating his older friend, with tragic results. The message is that, if little kids see grownups doing something that looks cool, they'll emulate it, no matter how many times adults half-heartedly tell them it's not good for them. I can honestly say that's the reason I started eating tubs of cake frosting at such an early age.

CLOCKERS is a compelling, dramatic story from a talented man who seems to reinvent his directorial style with each new movie. (The only thing all Spike Lee movies have in common is overuse of the F-word... "fiddy.") This time, visually, it looks like a cross between MTV and "Cops." Thematically, the message of CLOCKERS is as important as any other Lee movie, and he once again paints a picture of a world where cops can give young black men body cavity searches in daytime at the park. I think I've seen this portrayal somewhere before, perhaps in an adult movie I saw at midnight in a hotel room. That's a different story...

Copyright 1996 Andrew Hicks

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