When the inhabitants of New York are threatened by a mass murderer, a group of Italian-Americans begin to buckle under the pressure of the fear created. Set in the blistering heat of the summer of 1977, Summer of Sam entwines the ills of society with the ills of a homicidal man’s mind.
The film delves into the changing music scene of the seventies, drugs and adultery. Although the film’s portrayal of the social reaction to Punk could, arguably, be seen as otherwise, it is not as race-orientated as other Spike Lee films (keep an eye out for Lee’s cameo as the news reporter detailing the violence of the mobs, too). The life of hairdresser Vinnie (John Leguizamo) begins to decline as his addiction to drugs grows whilst his constant extra-marital relations puts a strain on his marriage. Adrien Brody’s character Richie’s fascination with Punk exacts further tension in Vinnie’s group which steadily escalates throughout the film.
The tension experienced is heightened by the murder spree targeted specifically at cars in secluded areas being carried out by ‘the Son Sam’. The glimpses we get of the Son of Sam (who also refers to himself as ‘Mr. Monster) are vivid and add texture to the film. His murders, themselves desperate pleas for help, are apparently instigated by the dog he is tormented by. His crimes and actions are literally spelt out in children’s building blocks, underlining the fragility of his mental state.
Bookended by a documentary report, the film’s vibrancy comes from its depiction of the darker realities of society. As the reporter, Jimmy Breslin, says; ‘there are 8 million stories in the naked city, and this is one of them’.