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Inside Man Movie Review (8/10)

Posted on May 18th, 2006 filed in Movie Reviews    |   

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Four masked people lead by Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) overtake a crowded Manhattan Bank and render the emloyees and customers hostages. New York Police rushes to the scene and so does hostage negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) who is under investigation for the disappearance of $140,000 evidence cash. Frazier soon realizes that the criminals’ behavior is not typical of a robbery/hostage situation and gets even more curious when a high-powered P.R. woman (Jodie Foster) arrives at the scene with her own agenda in mind.


Spike Lee is back with “Inside Man”, a serious departure from his prior work, and arguably one of his best. This a clever robbery/hostage film that is well acted and masterfully executed.

First comer, Russell Gerwitz, gets a solid start with his very smart, quite elaborate, and extremely well plotted script that makes it very difficult for one to poke holes into.

The opening monologue is quite smart leading one to make all kinds of assumptions and thus get quite amazed later on as plot unveils. The film then moves back and forth in time while always adding new characters and story elements with Lee remaining faithful to using specific camera angles and film grains for each time frame making it trivial for the audience to be clear of where in time each scene belongs to.

The film is also timely and truthful to New York post 9/11, and by doing so is more relevant, credible, and interesting. The various racist remarks, while transient, are powerful, and the sharp portrayal of rough-beyond-the call-of-duty cops is a clear memento of how healing in that regard remains elusive.

Another Lee/Gerwitz social interjection is what may seem plot-irrelevant but is actually quite effective. It highlights an 8 year old boy playing Grand Theft Auto San Antonio video game. The few seconds glimpse into the game abounds with murders, brutality, and excessive profanity leaving us both disgusted and alarmed at to what our kids are exposed to nowadays. The kid calmly states that it is more than fine to commit whatever crime that ‘Get Rich or Die Tryin’ thug culture alludes to, and continues, “I am from Brooklyn”. He further states that robbery is a great way of making a living for a simple reason: “Just look at all the cash”. Russel’s obviously disturbed reaction and his powerful comment ‘I need to talk to your father’ conveys significant humanity to this supposedly brutal criminal and also serves as a wake up call to all parents outthere.

Lee also excels with his casting. Clive Owen adds another memorable performance to his ever expanding portfolio of first rate successes. He commands, mostly through his very unique voice force, and thus, while being masked in most of the scenes, delivers a powerful rendition of Russell as a combo of the contained, ruthless, and beyond intelligent ‘Die Hard’ villain Hans Gruber and a kind, socially concerned (scene with the boy), and a good samaritan (The “accidental bump” into Frazier resulting in a much needed diamond getting misplaced into the latter’s pocket) man .

Denzel Washington shines as well with a fine performance and a profound understanding and excellent portrayal of his character with all the layers involved (Calm hostage negotiator, romantic man in love, tainted but innocent detective, smart manipulator of opportunities that come across, and a man of values). Jodie Foster is also welcome as the high heeled, designer clothed, high power, super rich, bitchy dealer as usually we get some sleazy dude with gold teeth instead.

The reward of Inside man undoubtedly comes at the very end and it’s fabulous. I can’t recall another instance of being so outguessed and impressed ever since ol’ Keyser Soze (The Usual Suspects). Awesome job, Gerwitz & Lee.

Inside Man is great and smart entertainment and is highly recommended.

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One Response to “Inside Man Movie Review (8/10)”

  1. katie Says:

    I recently saw “Inside Man” on DVD and I highly enjoyed it. I totally agree with you about the high impact of the ending…. It is excellent, smart with a twist of humanity that warms our heart in the midst of an action movie filled with brutal, realistic profanity and racism that unfortunately reflects the bigotry and intolerance fueled by the fear of terrorism that is highly present in our society today!

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