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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 brianorndorf

"Spike Lee, good material, horrible final act"
4 stars

Spike Lee awakens from his artistic coma with “Inside Man,” a sharp heist picture that benefits greatly from a talented cast. The first two sections of the film are engaging, thrilling stuff, but the artistic decision to let this film ramble on pointlessly for over two hours murders the experience, and ends the film on a brutal, ego-centric note.

Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) is a self-assured criminal looking to pull off the perfect bank heist. Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is a hostage negotiator assigned to keep Russell in check during his siege on the bank. When it becomes clear that Frazier has no control of the heist, he begins a battle of wits with Russell to save the hostages and to salvage his poor career reputation. The situation is complicated further by Madeline White (Jodie Foster), an intermediary who is trying to protect a provocative document locked inside a safe deposit box for her particularly important client (Christopher Plummer).

“Inside Man” presents director Spike Lee a screenplay (written by Russell Gewirtz) that has no political subtext, no social commentary, and no speeches. For Lee, this is massive change of direction for his career, and after his humiliating 2004 misfire, “She Hate Me,” “Man” offers the exceptionally original filmmaker a chance to regain his mojo.

Lee takes the challenge to heart, and he weaves an interesting fabric with “Man.” Set in his beloved New York City, Lee plays down his traditional metropolis flavorings, instead focusing with laser precision on the crime and the fallout, keeping the nonessential storytelling to a bare minimum. It’s a huge achievement for Lee, and boosts the energy of “Man” in significant ways. The script plays with time and perspectives, but Lee keeps the story focused with only the smallest use of his old tricks, and a newfound sense to put his politics aside for a moment – though there are pointed and necessary jabs at “Grand Theft Auto” video games and gangsta rap stars that embrace racism and greed to entertain impressionable youth. “Man” is a superb return to form for Lee, who had long ago lost his way (save for 2002’s “25th Hour”) in the pursuit of his runaway ego and blurred vision.

In his fourth collaboration with Lee is Denzel Washington (“Malcolm X,” “He Got Game,” and “Mo’ Better Blues”). The actor lends “Man” the spark it needs to get the tension running, along with bits of humor that are entirely unexpected. Interestingly, Washington’s Frazier is only one third of the story here, robbing the actor of the starring role he’s used to, and the switch suits him fine. “Man” doesn’t ask Washington to carry the film, only to hold up his end of the suspense, which the actor accomplishes terrifically. In fact, Owen, Foster, and Washington all do such fine work creating conflict and expressing disgust with each other, it feels a shame that this once humming, spunky thriller has to come crashing back down to Earth.

It’s the last 20 minutes of the film where “Man” begins to crumble, and for two very specific reasons: the first of which is the screenplay, which sweats hard trying to stay one step ahead of the audience for the majority of the running time, and then suddenly changes course. The last moments of the film feature the characters tying up loose ends that have already been seen to conclusion earlier by Lee, thus grinding the film to a halt. Any thriller worth its thrills knows better than to reveal all the cards and still continue to play.

The second reason is what I would like to coin as “The Denzelian Moment.” In almost every film Washington has done in recent years, there’s been at least one scene where the actors gets a grandstanding moment of comeuppance, typically to a Caucasian character, as if to remind the audience that no matter what the situation looks like, Denzel is still in charge. “Inside Man” spends the entire film showing the audience that Frazier wasn’t in control, and in fact he’s a step behind all the other participants. But Lee and Washington aren’t satisfied with an accurate portrayal of a cop in over his head, and they turn Frazier into Shaft for the last reel, vacuuming out any sense of integrity “Inside Man” was enjoying up to this point.

The film is tremendous entertainment, and it’s an utter joy to see Spike back in action, but the filmmaker can’t control himself completely, and he exits “Inside Man” on an infuriating whimper, and not at all the bang that was intricately promised in the opening moments of the film.

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originally posted: 03/24/06 15:18:04
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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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