Clockers, Spike Lee

by Lowen Howard

1995. Joint. Directed by Spike Lee and produced by Martin Scorsese, the harrowing film “Clockers” takes a street-level look at the lives of young thugs pushing crack in Brooklyn.  The story focuses on “Strike”, a very disciplined and principled clocker (crack dealer) who got into the business through a fatherly drug kingpin who taught him, from a very young age, that crack dealers never smoke crack. The kingpin cryptically warns him, “If God created anything better, he kept it to himself.” Spike Lee adroitly captures both the wretched and beautiful dimensions of the impoverished Brooklyn neighborhood that the story revolves around. Though crack and it’s victims permeate nearly every scene, the story is not hopeless or despairing. Rather, it offers a nuanced and in-depth portrait of a vibrant community that is in constant struggle against a massive yet elusive tyranny. Though never simplistic or black and white, I’ve always been refreshed by Spike Lee’s bold–uncool and old school as it may be–denunciations of moral relativism. John Turturro, Harvey Keitel, and Delroy Lindo all deserved best supporting actor nominations the year this film came out.