Browse all reviews by letter     A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z 0 - 9

USA 1995
Directed by
Spike Lee
129 minutes
Rated MA

Reviewed by
Bernard Hemingway
3 stars


Clockers opens with graphic real life police photos of dead young Afro-American men violently murdered and left to die in the street in the drug-fueled gang wars that were a way of life in inner city black projects in the 1980s and '90s.  It is a bold commencement to a film which unflinchingly portrays the dead-end lot of many young black men and women.  In this respect, with its endless spewing of expletives that embellishes gangsta patois and the occasional outburst of violence it is not pleasant to watch Clockers even if one appreciates Lee’s typically confronting commitment to the task.

Based on a best-seller by Richard Price who co-wrote the script with Lee, it tells the story of Strike (Mekhi Phifer) a 19-year-old "clocker", a petty peddler of crack cocaine and the favourite of local drug kingpin Rodney (Delroy Lindo).  Rodney asks Strike to kill another clocker, Darryl, who has been ripping him off.  Darryl is executed but when Strike’s hard-working older brother, Victor (Isaiah Washington), confesses to the crime, the investigating officer, Rocco Klein (Harvey Keitel), suspects that he’s covering for Strike.

Phifer, who was making his feature film debut and who has largely worked in  television since, is effective in portraying the young man partly seduced by the easy money and ersatz status accruing to him as a drug dealer, but also aware that it is a lifestyle choice without a future.

Despite its superficial adherence to the murder mystery form and its slick visual style, Clockers is not a film with broad appeal. But as with his breakout 1989 hit Do the Right Thing Lee’s principal concern is not to entertain but to bring home the reality of life in the black ghettos of white society and he does so with his usual unapologetically passionate insistence/. This comes to us at the price of a tendency to labouring the point. Particularly as the film is over-long a little judicious pruning in this area would have also helped. 

FYI: Martin Scorsese, credited as a producer, was the film's original director with Robert De Niro in the Harvey Keitel role. 




Want something different?

random vintage best worst