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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by William Goss

"Botched Robbery"
3 stars

A bank robbery flick. Directed by Spike Lee. Yes, good ol’ Spike still finds occasion to remind us that racism still exists (in New York City, no less), but fortunately doesn’t dwell on the subject in his most mainstream effort to date, 'Inside Man,' a thriller which progressively declines from its solid opening into a fairly polished mess.

Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) has just executed the perfect bank robbery. (He’s talking directly into the camera, so it must be true.) He strolls in, takes hostages, has them put on attire matching that of their captors, and then waits. Assigned to handle the situation is Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), who is still trying to rid himself of the stench following a check-cashing bust and is puzzled by Russell’s demands and behavior. To make matters more difficult, the bank’s owner (Christopher Plummer) enlists the aid of Madeline White (Jodie Foster) to pull strings and ensure that certain interests of his remain protected.

Washington does his typical dishonored-cop-with-a-hunch routine to no great effect, Owen has his composed arrogance down pat, and Plummer manages to be the rich white guy with a devastating secret at risk yet once more. Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor contribute decent support as fellow police on the case. All of them merely serve the story, neither better nor worse than the film calls for. As it turns out, Foster manages to have the most fun by being rather restrained, taking remarkable pride in her tightly wound role. Her character is a power player, the alpha female, and as such, she embraces her role with a refreshing gusto previously suppressed.

After hitting the ground running and setting up the main conflict, the film takes its time establishing confrontations through conversations, at a point during which it seems alright to let the leads go at each other for a bit. Lee even manages to get in just about one hostage for every minority, which leads to the occasional racial reflection (the least subtle being a young kid’s handheld video game, a Grand Theft Auto clone named – ahem – Kill Dat Nigga!, which Russell considerately denounces). One moment that borders between clever and corny is when Detective Frazier broadcasts a foreign recording to the nearby gawkers, his logic being that someone in Manhattan must be able to interpret the transmission.

However, after the first hour or so, the initially cool confidence of the direction, script, and performances becomes steadily submerged in a layer of smug satisfaction, as what could have been a commendable genre effort begins to collapse under the weight of its own cleverer-than-thou tone. When Lee begins to include interrogation footage with the survivors, he immediately deflates the urgency and risk of how the hostages might fare. For every example of slick direction (like a camera weaving from office to office in a single shot), there is an equally inane scene, such as a particularly painful dolly shot, during which Washington apparently levitates (?) from Point A to Point B in an awkward simulation of intensity. The film’s tone soon shifts from meticulous and methodical to mechanical and eventually muddled, courtesy of a bloated climax during which all is revealed and none of it really matters.

In the hands of another director, this may have been a captivating straightforward thriller, and although it is certainly admirable to see Lee strive to make something more than another genre picture, the potential is wasted and the result is rather unsatisfying. I couldn’t shake the feeling that there was a damn fine movie sitting right in front of me, and for the first half, I wasn’t too far off. By the end though, all I saw was a hollow heist, where the only thing they made off with was two hours of my time.

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originally posted: 04/11/06 16:22:29
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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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