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"Inside Man"

Directed by Spike Lee.
Written by Russell Gewirtz.
Starring Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Clive Owen and Jodie Foster.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  3/25/06


Spike Lee goes commercial!

In what has to be the biggest budget film Spike has ever worked on, "Inside Man" showcases many similar traits to smaller Spike flicks about race and class and injects a sorta-twista script by first-time writer Russell Gewirtz to give us a pretty satisfying film experience.

Oft-tapped Spike favorite Denzel Washington plays Det. Frazier, a hostage negotiator under fire who along with his partner, Det. Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), get a call one morning to deal with an apparent bank robbery in progress near Wall Street in New York City.  This robbery is being led by a guy named Russell (Clive Owen), and in taking about 20 hostages, Russell and his three cohorts intend to start killing two people an hour unless their demands are met, hostage blah blah blah.  Meanwhile, the man who runs the bank (Christopher Plummer) hires a special consultant (Jodie Foster), to reacquire the contents of a safe deposit box at the bank to help the bank owner protect some special interests.  Twists ensue.

Consistently interesting, a little tense, and intentionally confusing by showing us scenes from what happens after the robbery as Frazier and Mitchell continue their investigation, "Inside Man" is actually good fun by featuring a safe, broad scope of humor to go along with good performances from about a dozen recognizable actors.  At no point do you watch this film sensing greatness, but as a good film throughout "Inside Man" is quite solid.  I don't even know if Washington is acting any more, as he can start talking about pizza boxes and make them sound interesting.  But, you throw him a cast that is stronger than normal AND appears to give a shit--throw us a Foster, a Willem Dafoe, a Plummer--and stronger-than-usual performances from your bit players (Lee is always solid in this regard, getting juice from almost all of his cast members), and it makes the two-hour ride smooth.

Plus, for a thriller, "Inside Man" has some good laughs.  You're not going to find yourself howling during this thing, but hey, we're talking maybe 10-15 good snicker moments, chuckle-to-yourself moments, bits that are funny but made funnier by good comic timing.  Conversely, the jazz-riddled soundtrack doesn't fit most of the goings-on here; the action onscreen is tense but we've got Smooth Jazz 105.9 playing in the background, which doesn't work.  The ending also has shades of "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in that it runs a solid 10 minutes after what should have been the final ending of the movie.  There also was not enough of Florina Petcu, playing an Albanian woman that is all too hot for one scene and 45 seconds of screen time.

Otherwise, "Inside Man" is good stuff.  Hopefully, this will make more money than that dogshittish "Larry the Cable Guy: Health Inspector", but people these days have proved me wrong a TON this year!

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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The "fine print":
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