Spike Lee scored his biggest hit to date with Inside Man, an unconventional thriller with fascinating details in the margins of its convoluted plot. The screenplay (by first-timer Russell Gerwitz) could've used a few more ... more »rewrites; it moves at a brisk pace but in hindsight a lot of it doesn't make sense. That makes Inside Man more fun to watch than to think about afterwards (when you discover plot holes big enough to drive a truck through), but it's curiously involving, especially as NYPD Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) struggles to outsmart a high-stakes bank robber (Clive Owen) who, along with a well-trained crew of accomplices, has seized control of a Wall Street bank, turning what initially looks like a hostage crisis into a personal crusade to expose some mysterious evil secrets. As you might expect from the director of Do the Right Thing, Lee seizes several satisfying opportunities to examine post-9/11 issues of racial prejudice and domestic terrorism, and the mysterious "problem solver" Madeline White (Jodie Foster), as eerily sinister as she is vaguely defined, is worthy of her own movie. With the benefit of his most stellar cast to date (including Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe and Chiwetel Ejiofor), Lee seems more interested in character details than well-crafted suspense, but that doesn't stop Inside Man from being engrossing, subtly amusing, and quirky enough to qualify as a welcomed break from the formulaic thrillers that are Hollywood's bread and butter.--Jeff Shannon« less
Inside Man Is Sharp Filmmaking With An Amazing Cast, Truly E
Kaya Savas | Bethesda, MD USA | 03/28/2006
(4 out of 5 stars)
"MOVIE: Spike Lee has never been on my top list of directors. His movies usually have very strong social commentaries, and nothing more than that. Those social commentaries though are usually the same thing, and it always has to deal with race. Hell, he calls every one of his films "A Spike Lee Joint". I'm not against it, but it usually detracts from the story. Inside Man is really his first movie that really focuses on the narrative and is intent on telling an entertaining story. The film is his most mainstream film to date, and in my opinion is his best. Clive Owen plays a bank robber who decides to go Dog Day Afternoon style and perform an elaborate bank heist, but this theif has everything planned to perfection. The film opens right into the action and wastes no time. Denzel Washington plays the "average joe" hostage negotiator who is assigned to the case, and Chiwetel Ejiofor plays his partner. As the story progresses we learn more of what the true purpose of this bank heist is. The owner of the bank, played by Christopher Plummer, has a secret about his past that could destroy his repuation if released to the public and it happens to be located in an unlisted safety deposit box in that bank. He hires Jodie Foster to help him try and reason with Clive Owen's character, while all Denzel Washington is concerned about is serving justice. The film is quick, superbly edited, and extremely entertaining. Spike Lee doesn't compromise his techniques and the film still retains all of the familiar Lee social commentaries. Race and politics become the underlaying theme for the film and it moves it in the right direction. All the reviews and ads talk about the twist ending and a plot full of surprises. It's not that kind of movie, there isn't a Shyamalan twist waiting at the end of the movie, but there are a few secrets about the characters that are slowly revealed throughout. There are some surprises that will make you grin with shame becaue you didn't see them coming, and those are always fun. The racial and political theme is not overpowering, it's not what drives the film but rather enhances the character relations in the film. It's a really well put together piece of filmmaking. Sharp dialogue, light tone, and great entertainment make Inside Man a joint worth passing to the next person.
ACTING: This is the dream cast that any director would kill for. Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, and Willem Dafoe headline this impressive ensamble. I mean, how can you have bad acting with a cast like this? It's impossible. The cast is so experienced that they make it look easy to pull off roles like these. The characters feel natural and real, and are emotionally involving. It's a great cast.
BOTTOM LINE: Spike Lee proves himself to be a great storyteller. He focuses on the important things and highlights them with his personal touches. He even has his trademark "floaty camera" technique, which he uses to show determination on Denzel Washington's character's part. Even the opening titles and credits are done with style. He uses a very catchy song for the opening and closing credits that sets the perfect tone for the film. It's a song from Bollywood composer, A.R. Rahman. It's titled "Chayya Chayya". You can find the album on Amazon, it's the soundtrack to Dil Se. Inside Man is a tightly woven piece of filmmaking, and is worth your time"
"I promise you I'll walk out the front door!"
M. J Leonard | Silver Lake, Los Angeles, CA United States | 08/09/2006
(3 out of 5 stars)
"The one note about Spike Lee films is that you're never sure what you're going to get. I'm not really a fan, I find that his films are too convoluted with extraneous detail and somewhat over produced. Inside Man retains all the elements of a solid bank robbery/caper film, whilst also giving us Spike Lee's trademark of gritty, street-wise irreverence.
The problem with Inside Man is that it's impossibly unbelievable with a plot that strains the realms of credibility; combine this with it's over-long running time and you have a film that features some great performances by it's cast - Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer and Jodie Foster - but ultimately sags a bit in the middle and ends up becoming rather ponderous.
Lee manages to pull off a handful of effective scenes, but he doesn't have the flair to bring the whole movie off with real conviction. An enigmatic master criminal (Owen) - who spends most of the movie wearing a mask - plans and executes a "genius plan" in which he and several masked companions take over a Lower Manhattan bank and brutally seize several dozen of its customers as hostages.
The NYPD negotiator given the task of dealing with these crooks is an affable junior detective, Detective Keith Frazier (Washington) - under a cloud of suspicion from a previous case - he soon surmises that the perpetrators don't actually want the bank's money. Enter smarmy and elegant New York political insider Madeline White (Foster) who knows everybody and even has the ear of the Mayor.
Madeline is hired by the chairman of the bank's board of directors (Plummer) to oversee the crisis and make sure that certain secrets he has in his safe-deposit box stay secret. The bulk of the film involves the standoff between the bank robbers and the NYPD as they try frantically to ensure that the hostages remain safe.
Of course we know the hostages survive because Lee inserts interview footage of them after the heist is over, this device, however, tips off the outcome, dissipates suspense and quickly becomes tiresome. This is just one of the many techniques Lee uses to clutter the movie's structure and prevent the plot from unfolding as quickly as it should.
Obviously, everyone has something to hide, particularly the bank president, but when his past is revealed, it finally appears with a bit of a thud, with the movie going through to much difficulty to arrive at very little. In all fairness, Inside Man has some interesting things to say about race, money, power and the ethics of urban living, particularly in New York and the performances are wonderfully cynical and gritty.
Washington is sexy and strong, Foster is skillfully odious as the icy, sophisticated and amoral Madeline who cares for nothing but chasing big bucks, Owen is morbidly compelling as the determined heavy and Plummer is letter-perfect as the guilt-ridden bank honcho.
Lee, however, just doesn't seem able to bring all the disparate elements of a heist film into a convincing and gratifying whole and in the end; the movie is vaguely unsatisfying and impossibly far-fetched. Mike Leonard August 06. "
Inside Man Needed Inside Help
S. Samuel | Jersey City, NJ | 09/04/2006
(2 out of 5 stars)
"Judging from the reviews below, you would think this movie was on the verge of something great. WRONG.
IMO The storyline was very weak. I will give you a few examples.
The movie introduces too much information. For example, Frasier's girlfriend's brother (Notice how I don't know his name). He's introduced to the movie in the first 10 minutes as a person who is always in trouble with the law and shares an apartment with Frasier and his girlfriend. The next time you see or hear about this character is near the end - he's sleeping on the couch.
The next horrible character was Jodie Foster. She is introduced as a "problem solver for hire." However, her role is useless because when she confronts the bank robbeer she doesn't solve the problem. She is sprinkled throughout the rest of the movie for no reason at all.
In the movie, the robbers take everyones cell phone. One of the hostage has his kid with him. The kid offers to put his PSP into the bag. The robber, who seems fond of the kid, tells him to keep it. Considering the the PSP has wireless access one would assume this decision will come back to bite the bad guy the end. It's called FORESHADOWING. Instead, the PSP is shown as a device which has violent games on it that can influence our kids. Good message, but it was a wasted message.
Finally, it was not clear why the bank robber was robbing the bank. It was not clear how he knew which safe deposit box to steal. It was not clear why the bank robber wanted to expose the head of the bank as an evil person. It was not clear if the robbery was personal or if it was random.
Overall, the movie did not build up it's characters. The characters are flat. There is no growth. If you are a movie buff, this movie you can afford to miss."
Nearly flawless caper film!
David M. Lovin | Willow Spring, NC United States | 06/01/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The first thing that attracted me to this film was the cast. Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer, Jodie Foster, heck Willem Dafoe is really a bit player in this one. Not to mention that Spike Lee, not one of my favorite directors, but certainly capable of telling a good story, and the potential was there for brilliance. By now, you know surely that the film deals with a heist of a bank, that the thieves are not after the normal booty that bank robbers go after, and that someone high up in the bank brass stands to lose very personally based on the actions of the thieves. What you may not know is why the movie is so much fun and so great to see.
Clive Owen owns this film. Yes, Denzel is great and carries his scenes well, but Owen has the task of not only convincingly playing a thief who is totally in control of the situation, he has to play the role in a way to illicit sympathy from the audience. He does both things masterfully. No doubt you will be in agreement that his performance is the landmark achievement of the movie and the reason it ultimately works. Washington is a good two dimensional character, blending his desire to take advantage of this one great chance he has at landing a plum role within the police department and the fact that he is personally struggling with the pressure of his girlfriend who wants to discuss "the M word" and wear something on a certain finger. In fact, this becomes a large part of the film, right up to the very end.
If I noted a couple of weaknesses in the film they would be these. Jodie Foster's character, while necessary, seems to distract from the action. Her role is somewhat important, but I wished she had not been there. Also, the film wraps up somewhat clumsily, as it feels that an extra scene or two should have been left out. This would have made the scenes after the main action feel much tighter. The very end of the film was the only time I felt any urge to look at my watch.
These are minor complaints, believe me. In the end, this is a winner, top to bottom. The scary thing about watching movies like this is that the idea the crooks had for robbing the bank is so smart, it will be a wonder if other people don't try it. The heist strategy made that much sense. I highly recommend this film. You won't regret it."
You'll be half off your seat!
A grandmother | New England | 04/14/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"This movie is a WINNER!
Totally entertaining, well acted and directed ... and one you'll be talking about when it's over. Pay close attention to the ending, I didn't realize how many twists there were until I talked with my husband, and several others who were walking out of the theater.