Inside Man (15)
Time Out says
Mon Mar 20 2006At first glance, a bank heist movie seems an odd choice for Spike Lee: there’s never been reason to think the notorious provocateur would be interested in a genre outing. The set-up seems to offer an explanation: four robbers enter a Manhattan bank and instigate a lock-down with military precision, taking hostage several dozen staff and customers. A cross-section of the city in mortal peril in a fortress of capital – what better vessel than this microcosmic pressure cooker for one of Lee’s excavations of racial and economic tensions in contemporary New York? But no. What follows is neither indictment nor satire, but a slick, kinetic and relatively straightforward – which is to say enjoyably twisty-turny – tranche of cat-and-mouse procedural. And given Lee’s decidedly mixed recent output (‘She Hate Me’, ‘25th Hour’), that’s no bad thing.
The face-off is between hostage negotiator Frazier (Denzel Washington, noble as usual but affable and short on pomposity) and unflappable lead robber Dalton (Clive Owen, remarkably compelling given that his motivation and face are concealed for most of the movie). Russell Gewirtz’s screenplay offers no surprises but it’s satisfyingly head-scratchy throughout, from its choppy chronology to the ambiguous roles of supercool fixer Jodie Foster (unusually perky) and bank boss Christopher Plummer (usually reptilian). The narrative ducking and diving leaves room for a few Lee-style asides – a Sikh complains of chronic harassment – but nothing that adds up to a social argument. Like Dalton, Lee executes his mission with aplomb, even if his motivation remains a little less clear.
Author: Ben Walters
Fri Mar 24, 2006