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