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"25th Hour"

Directed by Spike Lee.
Written by David Benioff (based on his novel).
Starring Edward Norton, Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
Release Year:  2002
Review Date:  1/23/03 


I was pretty excited for “25th Hour”, the new Spike Lee film, but I was slow to getting around to seeing it.  I had some friends in New York tell me how much they *didn’t* like the film, so I waited enough time to clear my memory of their reaction to it and hopped over to the multiplex to catch it tonight.

Edward Norton stars as New York City drug dealer Monty Brogan.  Soon after we meet him, we learn that Monty has got just 24 hours to live as a free man before he is going to prison to serve a seven-year prison term thanks to a DEA drug raid on his ritzy apartment.  So, what would you do on your last day on the outside for seven years?  Monty decides to spend some quality time with his pop (Brian Cox), his two best friends (Barry Pepper, Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his live-in girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) at various spots around the city, and we in the audience quietly wonder whether Monty will try and break out of New York before he needs to report for his sentence.

I say “quietly wonder” because Lee spends so much of his film (scripted by the author of the book the movie is based upon, David Benioff) just hangin’ out with Monty, Frank (Pepper) and Jakob (Hoffman).  Save for an exhilarating scene where Jakob and Frank look out the window of Frank’s downtown apartment, the movie’s pacing is meandering as we watch Monty try and connect with people he doesn’t seem to know very well.  We also get to watch Frank and Jakob—distant friends that only see each other when they hang out with Monty—have meaningless conversations that seem to be ripped from a cross of Tarantino dialogue and “Sex and the City”-style dating banter.  In the background of it all, I kept wondering what Monty would try and do...and, that made “25th Hour” very watchable to me, even as the sidetrack with Jakob’s hot 17-year-old student Mary (Anna Paquin) kept surfacing and even as Tony Siragusa—aka, The Goose from the Baltimore Ravens last year!—kept trying to give me his best shot at a Ukrainian English accent.  Now, it is also very watchable because Dawson is just a fox, and my jaw hit the floor with everyone else’s in my theater when she showed up in that silver dress late in the film.  Sassy!

The ending of “25th Hour” sucks.  Plain and simple.  I didn’t like it at all.  It felt way too movie, and I wonder if Benioff ended his book any differently.  (If you have read it, lemme know.)  And, I can’t say if I was the only one, but I thought the film could have left out most of the “fuck you” mirror sequence in the bathroom with Norton.  But, the ride to that final fifteen minutes is pretty solid entertainment, driven by great performances, a rousing-yet-sometimes-misplaced score, and some good-looking shots that are Spike Lee staples, like the double-dolly shots (whenever you see a character that looks like they are gliding on a skateboard towards the camera; Paquin is in one of them when she is in the nightclub).  Catch it while you can...

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
© 1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09