Saturday, July 13, 2013


On June 29, I went to the PFA to see Clockers.  The film's editor, Sam Pollard, was there to discuss the film before & after the screening.  I skipped the post film discussion.

Clockers starring Mekhi Phifer, Harvey Keitel & Delroy Lindo; directed by Spike Lee; (1995)

Originally slated to be a Martin Scorsese film, Spike Lee took over on the basis of Scorsese's recommendation.  The film seems more suited to Lee's oeuvre.  Mekhi Phifer is Strike, a "clocker" or small-time drug dealer.  Technically, he is the head clocker or he has a crew of drug dealers.  Strike is the liaison between the street dealers and Rodney Little (Delroy Lindo), a barber or general store owner who is the drug lord of the neighborhood.

Strike is rotting away as a drug dealer; both literally and figuratively.  He has an ulcer but he's also lost his sense of morality.  When Rodney suggests he kill another drug dealer, Strike opportunistically dupes his brother (who has a legitimate job) into doing the killing.  Harvey Keitel and Nicholas Tuturro are the police detective who investigate the murder.  Strike's brother quickly admits to the murder but Keitel has his suspicions.  As he focuses on Strike, the tension rises.  There is a number conflicts Strike has to deal with - Keitel thinks he is the real murderer, Rodney thinks he will rat him out to save his own skin, the mother of a boy Strike has taken under his wing is pressuring Strike to leave her son alone and finally, Strike is self-conflicted as the confronts the man he has become vs. the man he wants to be.

There wasn't too much violence but Delroy Lindo is one bad MF as Shaft would say.  Actors in smaller roles stand out:  Tom Byrd as Rodney's drug-addled, psychopathic parter, David Keith as a neighborhood beat cop and Regina Taylor as the mother of the boy who admires Strike.

Clockers lacks some of the passion of other Spike Lee films.  It feels a little mechanical and the performances are more subdued.  I'm thinking of a Lee film like Inside Man.  Essentially a caper film, Lee's direction infuses the film with a vigor and swagger that are largely missing from Clockers.

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