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Overall Rating

Worth A Look: 38.71%
Just Average: 15.32%
Pretty Crappy: 4.03%
Sucks: 1.61%

11 reviews, 58 user ratings

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Inside Man
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by Jason Whyte

"ALL of this talent and it's only this 'Good'?"
4 stars

“Inside Man” is Spike Lee-lite, a solidly entertaining crime picture that has very little of the powerful edge of some of his earlier works (think “Do The Right Thing” and “Malcolm X”, for starters) and yet still is entirely watchable with good performances, solid direction and some interesting character and plot developments, even if some of the lengths that Lee goes to do some of these come across as ridiculous.

The film opens on Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) who is speaking directly to the camera asking the viewer to pay close attention, although it then cuts to a few alternate angles to make us notice that things aren’t really what they appear to be, and that theme plays throughout the entire film, as unconvincing as that may be at times.

As the film gets going, we see Dalton and his entourage of cronies take over a downtown Manhattan bank, dragging all the hostages into a small room in the rear of the building and making those all dress up as the crooks themselves. Detective and hostage negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is immediately called into action to control the entire swat team situated outside the bank. Slowly but surely, Frazier and his team start to notice that Dalton’s robbing is curious, and it also doesn’t help that a third party fixer named Madeline White (Jodie Foster) suddenly appears on the scene, hired by the ailing bank owner (Christopher Plummer), who has some secure documents of his own that he doesn’t want to get into the hands of the crooks.

One of the film’s biggest problems is the editing structure, where Lee suddenly cuts ahead of the action to the bank hostages being rather harshly interrogated by Frazier. There are also moments, that I won’t spoil here, that let the cat out of the bag far too early, so we’re waiting for the shot or scene that explains why we’re seeing foreshadowing so early. The jumping narrative can certainly work if the story calls for it, but the interrogation scenes serve no purpose, nor does the character of Madeline White, who creates a bewildering mystery about her character and we don’t really know what she actually, you know, does.

Denzel Washington’s performance is excellent; even though he always delivers on every film he does, he creates an interesting character in Keith Frazier, and I liked the moments where he decides whether or not when to first talk with Dalton, when he calmly discusses issues with his partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor) or sweet-talks to his wife in quick cell phone calls. Clive Owen comes very close to letting his British accent slip out at times, but is still a powerful and oddly cool force as his Dalton plays cat-and-mouse with Frazier. And as much as I like Jodie Foster (doesn’t everyone?) her questionable appearance in the film and the recent “Flightplan” after a few years of acting absence makes me believe she’s just here for the work and nothing else.

Interesting, isn’t it, that we have Lee, Denzel, Clive, Jodie, Willem Dafoe, producer Brian Grazer, cinematographer Matthew Libatique (who lensed “Requiem For a Dream”, for starters), composer Terence Blanchard and many other extremely talents present in the film, and yet “Inside Man” feels awkward at times, that something is holding everyone back. With that said, you can feel Lee’s cinematic language seep through in certain scenes, although I get the impression that there was heavy studio pressure to keep Mr. Lee back from hitting harder to the viewer about the New York way of life that he brought across in his 1989 masterpiece “Do The Right Thing”.

Still, with all my problems aside, it still works with its performances and style, and I enjoyed the flawed ride. Perhaps this “big” Spike Lee joint will get him the opportunity to do more of his experimental works like “She Hate Me” and “Girl 6”, and if so I’d like to see original moments like the point-of-view scene involving a violent video game that a young hostage plays, for example. You wish the film would be filled more with these moments and not just the passable entertainment that it is.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14180&reviewer=350
originally posted: 03/26/06 14:33:46
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User Comments

9/21/17 morris campbell good imho 4 stars
10/29/13 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
8/09/09 Jeff Wilder Commercial. But Lee's most purely enjoyable movie and an intelligent thriller with humor. 4 stars
9/30/08 Shaun Wallner I really enjoyed this film. 5 stars
7/29/08 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
7/15/07 Ry crap... 2 stars
6/11/07 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
1/10/07 Tracey Chambers loved it. thought it was smart and clever. 5 stars
1/04/07 Taylor Fladgate I can't believe these high ratings. The script was simple, from a high school production. 2 stars
12/15/06 Quigley A highly original heist film with great direction and acting. Clive Owen stole the show 5 stars
11/24/06 R.W.Welch Labyrinthian heist flick has slick production, above par acting. 4 stars
11/20/06 MP Bartley Lee wobbles slightly trying to keep all the balls in the air, but it's a grand effort still 4 stars
11/16/06 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
10/23/06 Clive Owen How did the MAIN bank robber KNOW about the box? 3 stars
10/13/06 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
9/25/06 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
8/11/06 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
6/13/06 SteveO Smart, well-written, entertaining, solid cast - but a bit long. Spike, learn to EDIT! 4 stars
6/12/06 Michael Had low expectations, but Spike is back! 4 stars
5/05/06 alice entertaining ! 4 stars
5/01/06 jaibi joseph this movie is one of those intelligent genre 5 stars
4/26/06 The Outside Man Cool Flik! 5 stars
4/23/06 alien assassin intelligent thriller with a clever twist at the end 5 stars
4/22/06 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
4/17/06 Agent Sands Clive Owen plays one of the greatest movie criminals since the 1960s. 4 stars
4/16/06 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
4/08/06 Don held my interest, a little too long 3 stars
4/08/06 KingNeutron Awesome, except for the weird music. 5 stars
4/08/06 jack who wrote the dialog? boooring 2 stars
4/08/06 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
4/03/06 don.bishop@ntlworld.com You know nothing! What about Chase I mean Case. In fact Frazier was ahead remember the pen 5 stars
4/02/06 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
4/01/06 Eevil Wolfie It was ok I guess. Got kind of boring after a while. 3 stars
4/01/06 vinyltap A truly remarkable flick. For one, I loved the robbers who used brains instead of brawn 5 stars
4/01/06 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
3/29/06 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
3/27/06 Danny Johanson This movie was absolutely awesome and brilliant. 5 stars
3/27/06 Brian Meyer Absolutely the smartest action movie in years! 5 stars
3/27/06 Julie wow, so much going on and so satisfying. 5 stars
3/26/06 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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