Die Hard in a Bank

by Alan Rapp on March 24, 2006

in Movie Reviews 

Well that’s different and kinda the same.  That was my reaction to Spike Lee’s latest Inside Man which is his first try and a mainstream action-thriller.  While not what I would expect from Spike Lee, for a heist flick it’s not too bad.  Sure it could use a tweak here an there in the writing and some more editing (129 minute running time), and sure he steals the ending from (oh, I don’t want to give that away), but for the most part the film works and entertains.

Inside Man
3 Stars

I love heist flicks.  I mean I l-o-v-e ‘em!  So I’m predisposed to like a film like this though I also tend to nitpick at them as well.  Spike Lee’s attempt to make a mainstream film has actually produced a pretty good genre flick.  While not a great movie Inside Man works pretty well as a heist flick and makes the most of its cast and setting.

The film starts out with a bank robbery in New York.  The leader of the robbers (Clive Owen) and his crew seemingly have thought out their plan to perfection, but a problem occurs when a cop discovers the attempted robbery and calls it in.  The block is sealed off and a negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner (Chiwetel Elijofor) arrive on the scene.  From here things get a little complicated as the cat and mouse game begins and Frasier starts to question whether the heist may not be more and less than it seems.  Complicating things are the bank’s owner (Christopher Plummer) who has something hidden in the bank he doesn’t want found and his hired gun (Jodie Foster) sent to the crime scene with and agenda all her own.

The heist itself works quite well.  One of the first things the robbers do is take everyone’s cell phones and strip them down and have them put on clothing and masks similar to the robbers.  Then the hostages are broken into small groups and left blindfolded in separate rooms; periodically a hostage or two will be switched from room to room.  The result becomes the hostages, even to themselves, have become indistinguishable from the robbers.

The movie is inter-cut with flash-forward scenes to Frazier and his partner interrogating different hostages trying to find out what really happened inside and whether they are part of the robbery.  This makes the film a little different than your average heist flick, but also raises some problems because if you watch closely it starts to give away parts of the film’s secret.

Spike Lee is obviously a fan of Die Hard and the film really wants to be the same type of film; it doesn’t quite succeed though it is a fun ride.  Part of the problem lies in how easily and early the film gives away many of its secrets and part of the problem is the truth about what Plummer’s character is hiding is nothing new to film/TV/DVD and isn’t hard to figure out or that shocking when revealed; something a little more original would have helped here.  My last issue isn’t so much with the ending it steals from a classic American author (just mentioning his name would give it away) but the cutesy little epilogue that isn’t really necessary or believable.

Aside from these issues the film still works and entertains and the performances are first rate by Washington, Foster, Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and RazorFine favorite Ejiofor.  There are some great supporting roles by the hostages and the film is excellently shot and the story is managed quite well (even if it is too long) by the director.

Inside Man is an entertaining heist film filled with great performances.  Could it have been done better?  Absolutely!  But despite all my issues with the film, in the end what Lee gives us is very entertaining.  Because it gives away it’s secrets too easily it never quite works as a suspense film, but it still works quite well as an action-drama.  And it’s a pretty good heist flick.  If you’re a fan of the genre or these actors I’d recommend the film to you.

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