Sunday, April 09, 2006

One for the Money

Why did Spike Lee make Inside Man? Well, let's face it, it's not as though he's had a whole lot going on recently. I mean did anyone see She Hate Me? I rest my case. I was not really looking forward to it, I must admit, but I am always willing to like something (unless of course it stars Will Farrell, in which case, you won't even get me within 200 feet of the theater). And though I will hand it to the film for delivering some witty dialogue and a clever, grade-A caper twist, Inside Man begins to drag its feet at the end of the first act and never truly recovers. At no point is the hold up even tense, lasting well into the next day (although the scenes of the petrified hostages are sobering - alluding not only to our current war, but specifically to Abu Graib through the use of masks and hoods). And even when the caper proper is through, the film trudges on... and on.

Juggling his poignant racial faux-pas and his heavy handed ones, Lee plods his way through the film without any set style or agenda - catering, one might assume to his whims. This plays out like a severely disjointed effects reel. At one moment, we've got a still Denzel Washington zooming forward on a platform as the crowd around him lurches forward in slow motion. Another pits us birds-eye in the bank, observing the waspily coiffed Jodie Foster "do business" with the hooded Clive Owen, bathed in golden lighting. Capers can be fun, and it would be dishonest to say that this one does not deliver. However, the dull outweighs the clever and you never find your heart racing quite like it should.

Now, I made fun of the movie before it even came out for its use of the most humor deprived actors in Hollywood. Washington does frequently attempt at humor here, though much of it falls very flat. Owen, well... how do you tell a joke with a cloth around your face and a gun in your hand. Owen is suave, but seldom humorous. Ms. Foster, on the other hand, is a complete surprise. Her perfectly named Madeline White is all smug cuntdom (a description at least adapted from the film itself - I'm not just being mean here). She traipses along, confidently swinging her $5,000 bag to and fro. She makes jokes! What's more, they're ones that we laugh at - AND SHE'S LAUGHING TOO! At one point she claims, "Now if you'll excuse me I have to go acquire a Park avenue co-op for Osama Bin Laden's nephew." This is not the humor of Flightplan - where everyone's laughing but her. No! She's a super-bitch and she's loving every minute of it. Critics have argued that her character is unnecessary, and while I might understand this claim, I think it is Foster (surprise of my life) that breathed a greatly needed breath of fresh air into the film.

Though the caper is wonderfully planned, the film bores itself in the details. All of the interesting mysteries that you believe (if only for a moment) that you might be left to chew on are resolved in horrifically blatant snippets of dialogue. I'd say wait, and when there's nothing better to do... TiVo it. Oh, and just for clarifications sake, my title for this review does not refer to the caper itself. Allow it instead to serve as the answer to the question posed in my introductory sentence.


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