Street Fight

Subscribe to Sharpe James alerts

Facts and Figures

Run time: 83 mins

In Theaters: Saturday 23rd April 2005

Distributed by: Marshall Curry Productions

Reviews 4 / 5

Rotten Tomatoes: 100%
Fresh: 22

IMDB: 8.1 / 10

Cast & Crew

Director: Marshall Curry

Producer: Marshall Curry, ,

Starring: Cory Booker as himself, Spike Lee as Himself, Al Sharpton as Himself, Cornel West as Himself

Street Fight Movie Review

It's tempting to view politics as little more than a grudge match, an untelegenic blood match between a number of well-dressed liars who should be judged not for the substance of their statements, but rather the artifice with which they conceal their true intentions. That was certainly the manner in which the local and national media seemed to treat the 2002 Newark mayoral campaign, an unusually rough-and-tumble fight between a hard-headed incumbent and an idealistic upstart. Even though the outcome couldn't have been more crucial - given the city's desperate poverty and steadily rising crime rate - it was treated more humorously than anything else, the writers almost seeming to pine for the more colorful days of machine politics that the election harkened back to. But, as Street Fight - Marshall Curry's punchy, entertaining, Oscar-nominated documentary of the election - shows, that kind of corrosive cynicism ends up favoring the entrenched powers that be, no matter what dirt they may sling.

Going into the election, it looks a pretty easy choice. The incumbent, Sharpe James, had been mayor of Newark since 1986 and seems your typical city hall dinosaur. Lazy from a lack of competition and fattened off a suspiciously hefty salary (further boosted, many had it, by the endemic corruption James had narrowly escaped being jailed for in the '90s), James should have been a cinch for his challenger, Cory Booker, to take out. Booker is a choirboy type from the suburbs, a Rhodes scholar and college football star who went straight from Stanford to Yale Law School to Newark, where he moved into a housing project and set up a nonprofit organization before taking on James. He's tall, broad of shoulder, quick of wit, and self-assured without seeming pompous; in short, a campaign manager's dream. New vs. old, crusading vs. corrupt, the choice seems clear. As Curry ably shows, though, in places like Newark, the old guard hasn't stayed in power so long by playing nice.

The film starts with Booker walking the hallways of a Newark project trying to get out the vote. It isn't long before the word gets out and the city's deputy chief of police shows up to not-so-politely tell him to get out of there. It's iron-fisted city politics of the oldest and ugliest kind, straight from the Tammany Hall or Daley machine playbook, and just a taste of what waits for Booker and his supporters down the line. It's quickly apparent that James has little of substance to beat Booker with. Sure, the last few years had seen some nice new buildings going up in downtown, but overall Newark was a hollow place going from bad to worse, with most of the windfall from the new developments going to rich outsiders or those with City Hall connections. James can't play the partisan card, since both he and Booker are Democrats, and one would imagine that he can't play the race card, since they're both black. Therefore, James plays the "not black enough" card.

Before the election is over, James and his race-baiting campaign will have accused the liberal, lighter-skinned Booker of being the following: a Republican, white, Jewish, a "faggot," a "carpetbagger," and beholden to right-wing extremists including (but not limited to) the KKK. James also doesn't mind using city police and firemen to harass Booker's supporters (businesses showing Booker signs are routinely harassed and threatened with various citations) and even the filmmaker (Curry almost loses his camera to James' plainclothes thugs on a few occasions). By the time the whole sad charade is over, about the only thing James can legitimately say about himself is that he was born and raised in Newark.

One criticism of Street Fight could be that it's such an unabashedly worshipful portrait of Booker. However, given James' spurning of Curry's attempts to give him equal time, not to mention the election's indisputably ugly facts, it's difficult to imagine how any documentarian with an ounce of honesty could have presented us with anything different. Street Fight is an amazing work, thrilling and informative in equal amounts, reminding us that democracy isn't just fought over on message boards and foreign battlegrounds, but also on our very streets. Right here.


Subscribe to Sharpe James alerts


Street Fight Rating

" Excellent "


More Sharpe James

Jamie Scott - Last Christmas Video

Jamie Scott of London duo GRAFFITI6 performs an acoustic rendition of Wham!'s 1984 festive single 'Last Christmas' in a black and white one-take video. In...

Christina Aguilera Ft. Brian McKnight - Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas Video

In 2000, Christina Aguilera recorded a collection of some of her favourite Christmas songs and the sessions resulted in the album 'My Kind of Christmas',...

Sam Smith - Like I Can Video

Sam Smith has launched the new video for his single 'Like I Can', released off of his number one debut album 'In The Lonely Hour'....

Jack Garratt - The Love You're Given (Live) Video

Buckinghamshire musician Jack Garratt performs an intimate live rendition of his new track 'The Love You're Given'. The artist has currently been touring across the...


Jack Garratt - Interview Video

Jack Garratt talks about his strict musical upbringing and subsequent multi-instrumental ability. However, it seems he hasn't always been dead set on being a musician...

Renee Fleming ft. Gregory Porter - Central Park Serenade Video

Renee Fleming and Gregory Porter perform a festive live rendition of their duet 'Central Park Serenade', taken from Renee's latest holiday album 'Christmas In New...

Laura Marling - Short Movie Video

Laura Marling has now launched the title track for her forthcoming new album 'Short Movie' alongside a colourful animated equine video. The record co-produced by...

Pond - Sitting Up On Our Crane Video

Tame Impala side-project Pond unveil a psychedelic graphics laden video for their new track 'Sitting Up On Our Crane', taken from their forthcoming new album...