The first time I watched "Clockers," I didn't like it. I rented it a few days after completing the book (by Richard Price), which constituted something of a spiritual journey. I was prejudiced against the film from the very beginning, for no real reason other than it wasn't the book.I decided to give it another try earlier this year--and boy was I glad. My imagination was no longer hemmed in by the novel--it was more of a faint memory than anything else. What I found sticking with me more were images from the picture (particularly the flashback to Rodney's first murder), and that's why I finally gave it another chance.
"Clockers" burns itself into your brain with clockwork precision--Spike never lets go of the reins here, delivering a somewhat simple storry gussed up and tricked out not with plot mechanics but with emotional complexities--a rarity in the world of cinema.
Tight and passionate, this is a film that once delivers both the visceral, rushing visuals of all Spike Lee joints AND a trickily layered moral question. The material is handled with finesse and skill; never before has Lee combined pop brain candy and mature artistry so successfully or seamlessly.
As always, there's style up the wazoo, but there's also a story to keep those fickle viewers watching. This should have served as a wake up call to those who had abandoned Spike after his post "Do The Right Thing" mishaps--too bad nobody bothered to see it.
Contributing to the effect are great performances by Harvey Keitel, Mekhi Phifer, Delroy Lindo, Isiah Washington, and Thomas Jefferson Byrd (and, yes, some nice bits from John Turturro). The performers nail their roles perfectly, particularly Keitel--this is the best he's been in years. He doesn't seem as aloof as he has in recent roles--he focuses his energy and slow burn anger on the matters at hand and shines through brilliantly.
Also of note is Phifer--after this film, he quickly did as many shit movies as possible to effectively kill his career ("I Still Know What You Did Last Summer," anyone?), but "Clockers" stands as his moment of greatness.Great performances, brilliant direction--the most powerful film I've ever seen. Congratulations to Spike Lee--you're all grown up, big boy. There's no juvenalia to be found here; just a really good story done to excellence by a cinematic master.