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Overall Rating

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 EricDSnider

"A perfectly good crime caper that you'll forget as soon as it's over."
4 stars

There is so little to "Inside Man" that it barely warrants a full-length review. It's a bank-robbery movie, and an entertaining one, but that's all it is. It makes no bold claims at originality. It has a couple of moderately nifty surprises. It goes on a little too long -- it's directed by Spike Lee, who has never made a movie that didn't go on a little too long -- and then it ends. You go home satisfied -- but not blown away -- and the movie never crosses your mind again.

In its basic scenario, it resembles "Dog Day Afternoon" so much that one of the characters mentions it. Masked gunmen dressed in painters' jumpsuits enter a Manhattan bank and take all the customers and employees hostage, locking them in offices and forcing them to put on identical masks and coveralls. Why? So that when the police finally get in, they won't be able to tell the perps from the victims.

The robbers are led by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), whose face we see very little of except in a flash-forward that begins the film, where he sits in some kind of cell and tells us about the perfect bank robbery he planned. We see even less of his companions, gradually figuring out who they are only when we see everyone -- bad guys and hostages alike -- being interviewed by police after the siege in an attempt to figure out who belongs to which group.

The lead negotiator on the hostage crisis is Det. Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), a good cop who's under Internal Affairs investigation for a batch of money that went missing after a drug bust. He's an expert negotiator, but he soon realizes that Dalton Russell is, too. The robbers have done their homework. They know what the cops are going to try before they try it.

Meanwhile, the head of the bank, a smooth old billionaire named Arthur Kane (Christopher Plummer), hires the services of one Madeliene White (Jodie Foster), a woman of indeterminate means who is the sort of person you call when you have a very delicate situation that needs to be handled discreetly. To wit, Kane has something in one of the safety deposit boxes in this very bank branch whose secrecy he needs to ensure at all costs. Why would the head of a huge bank keep his valuables in a deposit box at one of the branches, rather than in, say, his own private vault somewhere? It doesn't make sense to me either, but here we are.

With a screenplay by first-timer Russell Gewirtz, this is one of the few joints directed by Spike Lee that he did not write or co-write himself. Rest assured, there is still some of Lee's usual racial tension and sexism -- most of the women in the film are identified either by their breast size or their voracious sexual appetites -- but his knack for eye-catching visuals and strong camerawork are evident, too.

And it's fine, you know? I have no qualms about recommending it as a good, solid crime thriller, and nothing more. It might be interesting to pursue the question of why Lee is wasting his time on a standard-issue genre flick -- it's sort of like Martin Scorsese directing a "Final Destination" movie -- but really, I don't think the film warrants that kind of scrutiny.

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originally posted: 03/24/06 17:01:49
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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 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
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  24-Mar-2006 (R)
  DVD: 08-Aug-2006



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