Monday, January 29, 2007

Inside Man

Spike Lee | 2006 | 129 min | USA

I do enjoy a good heist movie, but maybe I'm the only one. People just don't make them anymore. Perhaps that is because it's exceedingly hard to come up with the movie-making clever getaway climax. I went into this latest Spike Lee Joint knowing this, hoping he wouldn't completely fuck this up like several of his recent features. I kept my fingers crossed the entire length of the film that I wouldn't have to watch CGI sperm with Denzel Washington's face superimposed upon them racing towards a giant egg. Am I the only one who saw She Hate Me?

Inside Man owes a lot to cop shows of the seventies. The tone, the (mostly) conservative direction, + the sound design all owe a great deal to the golden age of TV detectives. Denzel Washington does a good job with the cool swagger. His Detective Frazier is clearly cut from the cloth of that era + the leftover cloth was used to craft the white fedora he sports throughout. This is the kind of character Washington does effortlessly, which makes it a touch tired. Well done, but hardly new. The real joy to watch is Clive Owen. He plays the leader of a gang robbing a bank in downtown New York, taking command of close to fifty hostages during the attempt. Owen is intelligent, commanding, + makes excellent work of a script that demands he stay cryptic enough to never reveal what his character will do in the next moment. Basically, he makes me want to rob the shit out of a bank. Guy is cool. The dialogue between Owen + Washington is the highlight of this movie. The script does have a few clumsy moments of comedy in the script that don't quite work, but Owen even manages to get off a couple of funny lines when the material is in his hands.

As I said, I enjoy a good heist movie + thats just what this is. Not a great heist movie; a good one. It is intricately written + I found myself going back over a few early scenes to look at character introductions + such. Inside Man runs into problems when it tries to be bigger than the story demands. There are a few things that kept me from loving this film, most notably Jodie Foster. Her character seems unnecessary at best + her acting is grating at worst. Foster seems to have taken a few grad classes at the School Of Haughty Annunciation since we last saw her. There are also few clumsy swipes at the state of contemporary race relations in the US. The commentary is neither insightful nor unique. I found those moments took me out of the movie quickly. Likewise for a conversation late in the film that coincidentally occurs in front of a giant American flag billboard. Clever. The movie drags for a bit too long after the climax, as well. We are fed too many clues about the ending along the way, so waiting for the credits becomes a test of patience and little else. Once the big reveal is made, I didn't really need to see if the mayor would get any comeuppance or where Detective Frazier's relationship was going to go. I did not care. And one final note to Lee: please stop trying to show us 'sexy.'

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