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Overall Rating
4.12

Awesome40.32%
Worth A Look: 38.71%
Average: 15.32%
Pretty Bad: 4.03%
Total Crap: 1.61%

11 reviews, 58 user ratings


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Inside Man
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by Erik Childress

"See Pete Hammond Beaten To A Pulp!"
5 stars

There’s no way you thought that director Spike Lee was going to dip his toes into a genre picture without casing it with some brand of social relevance, did you? I’m just thankful all my suppositions about a loose remake of Wisdom proved to have little merit. In fact, Inside Man exceeded most any expectations I might have had for a filmmaker who has resisted going the route of easy commercial success (not one of his films has cracked the $50 million barrier.) It retains all the elements of a solid caper film, basked in the smarts of a decades old police procedural and leaves us with something greater than forced twists and shoot-outs.

Inside Man begins with Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) informing us that he’s planned the perfect bank robbery. Soon after, the First Manhattan Trust of NY is being taken over by a crew disguised as painters. They are efficient, threatening and practically invite New York’s finest to come and watch the show. Hostage negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) gets the call with his partner, Bill Mitchell (the great Chiwetel Ejiofor). Frazier seems the unlikely choice, what with the cloud of suspicion regarding some 140 grand missing from a check-cashing bust, but with the top dog on vacation Frazier arrives on the scene and waits for their demands.

Curiously though, other than asking for a jet and voluntarily sending out the occasional hostage with instructions, Dalton and his gang don’t seem to want anything. They stare at the open vault of money, feed their captives and in no way entice the cops to make a move on the bank. Further complicating matters is the appearance of Madeliene White (Jodie Foster), one of those backroom closers who has gotten where she has by “collecting friends, not enemies.” That doesn’t mean she won’t casually put the proverbial foot on the throats of those who won’t give her what she and her clients need. This time she’s been hired by the bank’s owner (Christopher Plummer) to protect the valuable interests contained in one of the boxes under safety deposit.

The logistics involved in both the robbery and the solution to it are a gradual reveal to us with hints dropped and occasionally an outright fact which peaks our search for the ultimate truth. The titular mystery person is under constant scrutiny from Frazier & Mitchell whose interviews with the hostages at the conclusion of the day’s events are interspersed throughout the film; convinced they are that one or more of them aren’t who they appear to be. The elaboration of their investigation is not victimized by some random Keyser Soze supervillain to be unmasked in a sudden moment of inflection. Rather its used to provide further clarity to Lee’s overall tapestry of the opportunity and greed that comes with power; brandished either with a gun or a pen.

Like Lee’s best works, Inside Man is very much a New York story as anything else. Anyone can do a cops-and-robbers tale and style it up, but few filmmakers will bring the flavor of its surrounding and make it an actual character within the societal boundaries. Casual racism, profiling and the attitudes of minor characters all mix into the melting globe. Plotwise it may be a throwback to the 60s & 70s, but it’s Lee’s embracement of the present which define it. Just as he did with 25th Hour (his finest work to date), this is a post-9/11 NY that is equal parts fear and self-involvement where any random lug on the street can identify a foreign language and still be annoyed at having to be asked. Where Lee usually throws in subplots worthy of their own movies (and usually add little to where we were initially headed), here they sneakily become part of the landscape, such as a video game so over-the-top that even an astute gamer such as myself was gleefully shocked at what it said about our culture of violence.

First-time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz delivers an impressive amount of information in the way of procedural tactics while respecting the limits of the thriller genre. The build-up is not comprised of elaborate suspense sequences but instead of the collective moral fortitude of each character. Foster’s cleaner seemingly walks into every room already holding one of her mark’s nuts in her hand and will leave with the other if necessary. Don’t ask/don’t tell is an intricate detail of her work and when she’s tempted to call one client a monster, she reminds herself that her next bit of business is securing a sublet for a relative of Osama Bin Laden. Foster is brilliant in the role, conveying little more than a crooked smile in all of her dealings but with a strength that lets everyone know she is not to be trifled with. Owen has maybe the trickiest of roles (hidden behind a mask through most of the film) since his motivations are less clear and we’re constantly reevaluating him right up until the end. But as he remains one of the most charismatic presences on screen of late, it’s impossible not to hang on his every word which he “chooses very carefully.” Washington is a rock as usual and really gets to DeNiro-it-up facially in the home stretch, but there’s still few actors you’d want taking charge of such material.

Inside Man, right up to its very title, is multi-layered on top of it’s already many surfaced layers. It’s sense of flawed people trying their hardest to make right despite of wrongs they’ve committed and may continue to commit is rich for the very discussion that Lee is prone to provoke. As its post-robbery third act resolves to satisfy all the questions and plot strands for the audience, it raises further eyebrows in testing the ethical resilience of everyone’s motives. What was it all for if not just for personal gain? The final scene where Washington stares down the past and his own future in his very hand is a brilliant summation on the lengths we can go to for personal happiness and success. We’ve come to expect such statements from Spike, but never before in such an entertaining fashion. (Note: A personal props to Lee & Gewirtz for including a character named Pete(r) Hammond. May or may not be a shot at Maxim’s quote-happy whore of a “critic”, but it was great to see him beaten to a pulp and cry like a little bitch.)

link directly to this review at http://www.efilmcritic.com/review.php?movie=14180&reviewer=198
originally posted: 03/24/06 16:02:16
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User Comments

9/22/17 morris campbell good imho 4 stars
10/30/13 The Big D Peee-eee--yew, did it stink! What's with trying to make bank robbers seem respectable? 1 stars
5/02/10 daveyt a mix of Spike and genre, style and substance. Entertaining enough 4 stars
10/06/09 Wade Frith I thought it was brilliant. It's very "read between the lines" u need to watch it carefully 5 stars
8/10/09 Jeff Wilder Commercial. But Lee's most purely enjoyable movie and an intelligent thriller with humor. 4 stars
10/01/08 Shaun Wallner I really enjoyed this film. 5 stars
7/30/08 chris f really good thriller enjoyed it very tense 5 stars
10/19/07 Double M Tense, gripping w/ sociopolitical innuendos BUT the upbeat Oceans 11 ending didn't fit much 4 stars
7/16/07 Ry crap... 2 stars
6/12/07 AJ Muller Really well done. Top notch cast, taut direction & clever script make this a winner. 4 stars
5/23/07 Matt Foster's pointless role does nothing to help lift this seen-it-all-b4 effort. 2 stars
1/11/07 Tracey Chambers loved it. thought it was smart and clever. 5 stars
1/05/07 Taylor Fladgate I can't believe these high ratings. The script was simple, from a high school production. 2 stars
12/16/06 Quigley A highly original heist film with great direction and acting. Clive Owen stole the show 5 stars
11/25/06 R.W.Welch Labyrinthian heist flick has slick production, above par acting. 4 stars
11/21/06 MP Bartley Lee wobbles slightly trying to keep all the balls in the air, but it's a grand effort still 4 stars
11/17/06 Steve Newman Best film for ages - see, see and see again 5 stars
11/15/06 jert not crap, not great, just okay hostage flick 3 stars
11/14/06 Bantu it was so entartaining! 5 stars
11/13/06 ras Good,entertaining, Spike tries to make his characters/story believable like ordinary people 5 stars
10/24/06 Clive Owen How did the MAIN bank robber KNOW about the box? 3 stars
10/14/06 jeanne Utter crap! From Denzel's endless smirk to Spike's community-theater directing: ugh 1 stars
10/12/06 John Chal Chaaiya Chaaiya Chaaiya!!! 5 stars
9/26/06 Indrid Cold A superior hostage movie, but nothing to write home about. 4 stars
9/04/06 Joe Smaltz Started pretty typical,bank/hostage. Started intrigue, and went nowhere, wouldn't recomend 3 stars
8/12/06 action movie fan excitng, clever procedural bank heist film--uiique for spike lee 5 stars
7/09/06 Gretchen Seitz Thanks, BrianO, for acknowledging that end "whimper"; I had thought I was missing something 3 stars
6/14/06 SteveO Smart, well-written, entertaining, solid cast - but a bit long. Spike, learn to EDIT! 4 stars
6/13/06 Michael Had low expectations, but Spike is back! 4 stars
5/06/06 alice entertaining ! 4 stars
5/02/06 jaibi joseph this movie is one of those intelligent genre 5 stars
4/27/06 The Outside Man Cool Flik! 5 stars
4/23/06 alien assassin intelligent thriller with a clever twist at the end 5 stars
4/23/06 Paul Coran Kept me on the edge of my seat. However, disagree that the crime was victimless. 4 stars
4/19/06 spacecowboy awesome characters 5 stars
4/18/06 Agent Sands Clive Owen plays one of the greatest movie criminals since the 1960s. 4 stars
4/17/06 Angela What a great character study. I went to see it again the following night just to see what c 5 stars
4/15/06 john bale Spike Lee's snappy direction lifts this heist thriller & certainly makes him mainstream 5 stars
4/09/06 Don held my interest, a little too long 3 stars
4/09/06 KingNeutron Awesome, except for the weird music. 5 stars
4/09/06 jack who wrote the dialog? boooring 2 stars
4/09/06 Koitus "Good" flick. A couple of obvious questions trip up the story-line, though. 4 stars
4/06/06 Helen Bradley Great story unnecessary ecessive vilonece 3 stars
4/04/06 don.bishop@ntlworld.com You know nothing! What about Chase I mean Case. In fact Frazier was ahead remember the pen 5 stars
4/03/06 Graham I think Spike Lee's just discovered subtlety. And I think it suits him. 4 stars
4/02/06 millersxing As suspenseful as Hitchcock's Rope in revealing the "perfect" crime 5 stars
4/02/06 Eevil Wolfie It was ok I guess. Got kind of boring after a while. 3 stars
4/02/06 vinyltap A truly remarkable flick. For one, I loved the robbers who used brains instead of brawn 5 stars
4/02/06 malcolm seemed like it would never end but one of lee's better ones. denzel - hypnotizing as usual. 4 stars
4/01/06 Suaa well made and entertaining but the plot twists are pretty obvious 4 stars
3/30/06 Matt Thoroughly enjoyed every bit of it 5 stars
3/29/06 Josh Standlee I loved the acting, but this was NOT an action movie. It really isn't worth anyone's time. 2 stars
3/28/06 Ole Man Bourbon Well made, but never goes anywhere. The story's even given away halfway through. 4 stars
3/28/06 Danny Johanson This movie was absolutely awesome and brilliant. 5 stars
3/28/06 Brian Meyer Absolutely the smartest action movie in years! 5 stars
3/28/06 Julie wow, so much going on and so satisfying. 5 stars
3/27/06 Arthur Klein A terriffic film from a great New York film maker. 5 stars
3/26/06 bobo really good. 5 stars
IF YOU'VE SEEN THIS FILM, RATE IT!
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USA
  24-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 08-Aug-2006

UK
  N/A

Australia
  30-Mar-2006




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