A drug pusher finds himself caught between his dangerous employer
and a renegade homicide detective who thinks he's guilty of murder.
Directed by Spike Lee
Written by Richard Price and Spike Lee
Starring Harvey Keitel, John Turturro, Delroy Lindo, Mekhi Phifer, Isaiah Washington, Keith David, Peewee Love, Regina Taylor, Thomas Jefferson Byrd, Michael Imperioli
Based on the novel by Richard Price
It's time to embark on a director's journey, one whose work I've dipped a toe into in the past, but never jumped into with both feet. Spike Lee is a controversial figure, known for his politically and socially charged films, as well as his outspoken social commentary. And I couldn't call myself a film buff if I wasn't willing to venture into uncharted territory. I started with Clockers, and I felt it was a good place to begin this journey. Clockers is an extremely socially-conscious crime drama that features a drug-pushing protagonist and a shit ton of morally gray characters trying to get theirs.
Our "hero" is Strike (Phifer), a young pusher who works for local crime boss Rodney Little (Lindo), who treats Strike like a son, until he screws up. Rodney implies that Strike would move up in the world if he killed a rival dealer, and then suddenly the dealer turns up dead, but Strike's brother Victor (Washington) confesses and says it was self-defense. Detective Rocco Klein (Keitel) doesn't buy it and continually harasses Strike, believing him to be the killer. But Strike says he's innocent, but the world around him is starting to turn very black and white, and Strike has to make a decision to either run or stay, before the decision is made for him. The performances are fantastic, and though the film has its flaws (Too many subplots, for one), it's still engaging.
Clockers isn't regarded as one of Spike Lee's masterpieces, but it's a good stepping stone towards his more significant films. It's a well-made, well-written crime drama that focuses very much on character, with nobody being fully good or fully evil. And that's the best kind of story, where people act like people. The film also shines a light on the daily struggle to live that goes on in the projects. Pushers push because it's all they've got, and the police become desensitized to the constant violence that's a natural by-product of such an environment. This is something Lee has always been great at spotlighting.