Do the Right Thing - 4K Blu-ray Review

Michael Scott

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Apr 4, 2017
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Do The Right Thing

Movie: :4stars:
4K Video: :5stars:
Video: :4.5stars:
Audio: :4.5stars:
Extras: :4.5stars:
Final Score: :4.5stars:


Spike Lee has become an iconic “controversial” director. He is a man passionate about the subject about racial inequality and created a TON of fantastic films. But he has also been accused of race baiting, and had his own share of commercial flops as well (Miracle at St. Anna for one). I’ve always realized you have to take his films for what they are, and while he may some issues in how he brings across his stories of race and violence, he always does so in a fascinating way. Do the Right Thing has always been the Spike Lee film that everyone brings up as his most famous and iconic, but I personally think it’s not AS good as fans of the film make it out to be. That’s not to say the movie is bad. It’s actually quite good, but I think rose colored glasses sometimes keep it on a pedestal when some of his later films easily outclass it. Much of the cult nature of the film stems from the fact that Do the Right Thing was the movie that put Spike Lee on the map. He had done a couple of low budget films and short films over the years, but the 1989 film that was Written, Directed and starring Spike was the film that made people sit up and take notice of what the man had to say.

Do the Right Thing plays out like a partial gangster film, and partial dramatic slice of life. The film takes place within a single 24 hour period on the hottest day of the year in Brooklyn, New York. Everyone is getting hot and grumpy, and racial tensions are at an all time high. Sal’s pizza shop (Sal being the famous Danny Aiello) feeds the entire neighborhood, which is mostly dominated by poor African Americans. Mookie (Spike Lee) works for Sal, while the Korean grocer down the street sells beer to the residents. As the day gets hotter and hotter, the bitter hate of racism rears it’s ugly head, pitting Italian vs. Black vs. Cop until someone is bound to get hurt.

The film is littered with colorful characters who each play a small part in the uprising to come. Sal is harsh old Italian who built his business from the ground up, Ossie Davis is a drunk old man named “Da Mayor” who thinks of himself as the leader of the small Brooklyn neighborhood. Ruby Dee is an old busybody who watches the coming and going of everyone going, and Samuel L. Jackson is a fast talking radio DJ who acts as the musical pulse for the entire film. A whole host of soon to be famous actors show up on the side as well, ranging from Martin Lawrence, to John Turturro. Each of these characters have their own issues and their own twisted biases. And each one of the them plays a hand in what is about to happen next.

Do the Right Thing uses the dichotomy of love and hate to get it’s social justice message across. Love and hate run a fine line, and Lee uses dueling quotes by Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to get his point across. The Film is a bit shaky in it’s message, with Lee more intent on venting some of his anger at racial tensions in the 80s more than creating a straight forward story. The vignette style storytelling sometimes wanders, and the ending is a bit over the top and controversial. Still, no matter your opinion on Lee’s rocky ending, it is a fascinating film that has stood the test of time (even though it seems a bit overly aggressive and slightly hockey by today’s standards.


Rated R by the MPAA

4K Video: :5stars: Video: :4.5stars:
The 2009 disc was great, and the Criterion just about perfect, but Universal’s 4K UHD disc really takes the cake and blows both Blu-ray releases out of the water. The textural details are simply mind blowing, and if it wasn’t for the orange and yellowish tinge that Spike Lee gives to the film, you’d think it was shot yesterday. Close up details are amazing, showing every pore on Spike Lee’s face, ever fleck of sauce on Sal’s shirt, and even the crinkles and moisture stains on the brown paper bags that “Da Mayor” uses to hid his cheap beer on the street. Colors are extremely warm with a very strong orange and yellow tinge to the image. However, said color grading never really gets in the way, except for the stylistic hazy sequences inside Mookie’s apartment, or in the night time shots after the riot. According to Lee himself, the warm burnished hues were meant to simulate the literal heat of the film, as well as the rising heat of the boiling racism and violence brewing just under the surface. It’s very effective, giving the film a sweaty and feverish look that fits the mood of the story perfectly.

The HDR color grading brings the film to life, as the Blu-ray always looked a bit flat and over exposed in comparison. The colors aren’t artificially hot or overly warm, but they are so incredibly rich and vibrant that even the Criterion disc can’t keep up. Blacks have some grain level increases to them, but overall they showcase great shadow detail even during the haziest and feverish of low light sequences.

Audio: :4.5stars:
The 5.1 DTS-HD MA track (found on both the 4K disc and the Blu-ray) is, again, right on par with other DCAU films of the past. It’s got a lot of oomph and power to it, showing off great surround activity during the battle and solid dialog. It’s never one to reach the pinnacles of greatness, but it most certainly is a very pleasing 5.1 mix, despite the limited budget of the animated film. Bass is deep and punchy, adding a lot of weight to punches, kicks and car chases, and the surrounds are generally rather active with all of the fisticuffs going on, as well as the 70s camp score.

Extras: :4.5stars:
• NEW! Spike Lee Intro
• Do the Right Thing: 20 Years Later
• Deleted and Extended Scenes
• Behind the Scenes
• Making Do the Right Thing
• Editor Barry Brown
• The Riot Sequence
• Cannes, 1989
• Trailers
• 20th Anniversary Edition Feature Commentary: Director Spike Lee.
• Audio Commentary with Director Spike Lee, Director of Photography Ernest Dickerson, Production Designer Wynn Thomas, and Actor Joie Lee.

Final Score: :4.5stars:

I’ll say it again, Do the Right Thing is nowhere close to Spike Lee’s best film, though it has become one of his most popular. The reality of the situation is that this was the film that put Lee on the map, and for good reason. It’s exquisitely shot, and the racial undertones are pure Spike Lee to the core. It’s a solid drama that still holds up today, and laid the groundwork for his lucrative career. The 4K UHD disc is incredible to behold, with a good host of extras, and technical specs that simply destroy the great looking 1080p discs that are out there. Spike Lee is not for everyone, but for any fans of Do the Right Thing, this is a stellar release.

Technical Specifications:

Starring: Danny Aiello, Ossie Davis, Ruby Dee, Richard Edson, Martin Lawrence, Spike Lee, Samuel L. Jackson, John Turturro
Directed by: Spike Lee
Written by: Spike Lee
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1 HEVC
Audio: English: DTS:X (DTS-HD MA 7.1 Core), French, Spanish DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Studio: Universal
Rated: R
Runtime: 120 Minutes
Blu-ray Release Date: February 2nd, 2021

Recommendation: Great Disc



AV Addict
Jul 13, 2017
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Thanks for the review. This was a great movie when I saw it long time ago. Will revisit this again. :)
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