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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 Matt Seaver

"As fun a cop thiller as you can find... and it's good for you, too!"
4 stars

Apparently, Spike Lee isnít all style. And heís not just controversy. He can do all that, and make a damn fun movie, too.

Inside Man is one hell of a change for Lee. Itís his most expensive film to date, with a bottom line of roughly $45 million, and it really, really shows. The film has a more polished look than 25th Hour, and even that wasnít too shabby. He again has the benefit of a giant cast of brilliant character actors to make his film very pleasing to watch Ė Denzel Washington, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster topline, and they are backed up by Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer and Chiwetel Ejiofor. With those names on the top, I was already interested.

Denzel is Keith Frazier, a detective for NYPD who is in hot water because $140,000 disappeared from a case he was working on. But the head detective is out on this particular day, so when word comes in that a major bank is being robbed, the job falls to Frazier and his partner (Ejiofor). At the scene, they meet the officer in charge of the tactical operation (Dafoe) and figure out pretty immediately that this isnít going to be a typical bank robbery (if there is such a thing). Within the first half hour we meet the perp, Dalton Russell (Owen), who isnít shy in telling us that heís planned the perfect heist. We also meet Madeline White (Foster), a person of questionable morality working for the bankís owner (Plummer) to protect certain interests at this particular branch. Whew! All of this revolves around a safety deposit box that everyone seems interested in, but the audience is left in the cold with Frazier to figure things out as they happen.

Thatís what hooked me about Inside Man. Itís a police thriller, sure, but to a certain extent itís a mystery. And itís not even hiding anything from the audience. Lee shows actions inside and outside the bank, conversations between Foster and Plummer; everything proceeds normally, but the audience is left without a single answer. Itís a nice feeling to get to play along with the ďheroĒ (weíll get to whether or not Denzel deserves that title later) for once, and not be smacking your head against the seat while you watch him go do something you know to be stupid.

And everyone pulls off their jobs perfectly well. Thereís a certain moral and ethical ambiguity in every character, which makes them all very interesting to watch. Itís quite a bit fun to know where everyone stands in reality, but to have doubt thrown at you, specifically about their reasons for standing on their particular side of the line.

Leeís trademarks are all over this film, too. Even in the middle of a major crisis, discrimination of all types runs amok. Whatís different for Lee is that he really doesnít confront them head on as he usually would. This isnít the correct place to do that. The hints of racism and personal opinions and discrimination give his characters a touch of human fault or feeling Ė a genuinely good cop and good person is revealed to have an overwhelming dislike of African-Americans, because he was shot in the chest by a 12-year-old while breaking up a fight.

Visually, Lee stays pretty reigned in by his standards Ė in fact, the few moments he breaks out of that are very jarring, because they are so drastically different than the rest of the film. They didnít have a negative effect for me, because I dropped out for a moment, noted how cool the moment looked, and reengaged almost immediately. Lee differentiates the two sections of film well Ė interlacing the crime drama with hostage interviews that happened later. At no point did I feel lost or even confused by the continuity. The twists and turns were well-orchestrated and pretty hard to guess, though by the end they were completely logical, and there are blatant hints throughout the film (note: pay attention to the title, and a line to the effect of, ďThatís a shithole if I ever saw oneĒ).

There are so many ways to look at this film, and I guess a factor of enjoyment comes down to whether or not you as a viewer want to consider the issues Lee is raising. If you donít want to confront the racial questions, "Inside Man" is more than enjoyable as a really good crime thriller. Lee picked a multilayered, interesting script (kudos to first-time writer Russell Gewirtz for that), and his cast completely backed him up. What you get out of "Inside Man" depends entirely on how much you feel like putting in, but no matter what, you should be able to enjoy yourself.

link directly to this review at http://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14180&reviewer=412
originally posted: 03/31/06 18:35:08
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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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