Sunday, November 9, 2008
DVD REVIEW: Inside Man...
I love me a good heist. Whether it be The Ocean's Series, or the classic Rififi, there is nothing that interests me more than a solid heist film. There's just something about robbing a bank and the power struggle that goes on between cops and robbers that works so well for me. Inside Man is no different. This was the last film from the controversial auteur Spike Lee, before his release this year, Miracle At St. Anna, and I got the great chance to check this one out today on television actually. And it was definitely time well spent.
Inside Man stars Denzel Washington as the troubled and tough nosed Detective Frazier. Mr. Frazier must try to match wits with a clever bank robber (Clive Owen). As the dangerous cat-and-mouse game unfolds, a wild card, sent by the bank's president who has something to protect in a safe deposit box emerges: Madaline(Jodie Foster), a power broker with a hidden agenda, who injects even more instability into an already volatile situation. With an army of police surrounding the bank, the thief, the cop, and the plutocrat's fixer enter high-stakes negotiations as 50 hostages and their lives are on the lines. The film asks it's viewer, and the character's for that matter, a lot of questions. Why are the robbers asking for a plane when they know they won't get one. Why aren't they in more of a hurry? If the job's perfect, why is the thieves' leader in a cell?
When talking about Inside Man, the first thing that I have to discuss of course, is Spike Lee, the film's great director. He's a much controversial, much beloved helmer of such films like Malcolm X and Crooklyn, shockers like Bamboozled, and classics like the brilliant Do The Right Thing. While Inside Man isn't up to Do The Right Things level, Inside Man is one hell of a good time. It's a complete Spike Lee film whether it be the brief discussions of race (such as a brilliant scene between the two main detectives and an Arab man in a diner), and the gorgeous shots of New York City. There are also visual, Spike Lee, staples most noticeably in his patented neo-snory cam shot, in which the main character seems as though he or she is standing on a conveyor belt as they move forward.
Right from the outset, we get thrust into the story of a man in a cell describing how he has committed the perfect robbery. We then are put right at the beginning of the robbery, and interspersed are interviews with the hostages that are taken by the group of robbers, whom call each other variations of the name "Steve". The group is helmed by Clive Owen's character, Dalton Russel, and he is the best part of this film, in the performance department. There is just something about his delivery and charisma that make you root for not only the "good guys", but the robber's themselves. Owen also holds his own in the one major scene between him and the master of cinematic charisma Denzel Washington, who is also really great here.
The true star of this film is the script. It was written by Russell Gewirtz, who shockingly has also written the deplorable script to the deplorable Righteous Kill. It's a solid script, and the performances given to it are also great, as I mentioned earlier. There really is no plot set up, it's simply a movie about a bank robbery and the power struggle between the two, or in this case, three parties. That's the real meaning behind this film. No matter who is in the conversation, someone is always in power. Take the scene where the women is asked to translate something for the police. She walks in, and before doing anything, says that she needs some parking tickets to get taken care of. Then she sparks up a cigarette, and after the great Chiwetel Ejiotofer asks her to put it out, she gives him a stare, and he steps back. The film is all about power and the struggle to get it.
Finally, the last thing I would like to talk about is the twist. I'm not going to say anything, other than it really made this film that much better. It was a great turn, and really worked for me. That all said, the ending did have to make up for a few problems in the means section of the film.
The main problem I had with this film is the character of Madeline, played by Jodie Foster. She wasn't in the film enough to really warrant her role, and if you get her out of the picture, you can still go forward with the diamond subplot, in that the man she is working for is the President of the bank. Her character is like a line drawn off a perfect circle. She had no necessary connection with in the film. Say she was working for a man that wasn't so strongly connected to the bank, like the mayor or a random broker, she would have had more importance. Foster was fine in it, and her character was interesting, she just didn't seem to have a point. A few of the interchanges felt a little heavy handed, and the last thing may come off as a lame point, and it didn't bother me really at all, I just wish that there were a few more visual flourishes during the film. The film does get a little visually tired, and then comes a breathtaking shot of a still Denzel Washington "floating" towards the bank being robbed. It didn't effect my final outcome, it's just something I would have liked to have seen.
Negatives aside, this is a really solid heist film, and if you are like me, and a fan of the sub-genre, give it a shot if you haven't already.
INSIDE MAN: 8/10
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