Spike Lee's "Red Hook Summer" plays as if the director is making it up as he goes along. That's not entirely a bad thing, although some will be thrown off-balance by an abrupt plot development halfway through that appears entirely out of the blue and is so shocking that the movie never really recovers. Here is Lee at his most spontaneous and sincere, but he could have used another screenplay draft, and perhaps a few more transitional scenes.
The movie takes place in yet another Brooklyn neighborhood, the fifth to grace a Spike Lee film. Red Hook was founded long ago as a community to support the docks and shipyards, and indeed the Queen Mary 2 floats by so close, it seems you could jump on board. This is not the Brooklyn of recent gentrifications (although that's nibbling on the fringes), but a poor African-American neighborhood with 80 percent unemployment.
We learn that fact, and many more, in one of the several sermons delivered by Bishop Enoch Rouse (Clarke Peters), pastor of the poorly attended L'il Peace of Heaven Baptist Church. He has a small congregation and a growing financial crisis that may put his storefront operation out of business.
To live with him for the summer, he welcomes someone he has never seen: his grandson, Silas (Jules Brown), who prefers to be called Flik. The kid is dropped off by the bishop's daughter, Colleen (De'Adre Aziza), who hasn't seen her father since he left Atlanta some years before. Nor is she happy to see him now. No reason is given for her leaving the boy with the bishop, and given all we know by the end, this seems like a huge gap in the screenplay by Lee and James McBride.