Inside Man (7/10)
by Tony Medley
Dalton Russell (Clive Owen)
is a bank robber who takes hostages, being pursued by NYPD Detective
Keith Frazier (Denzell Washington), in this caper film directed by Spike
Lee, who is clearly taking a sabbatical from his general modus operandi.
Is a screwball comedy next for Spike? This is the fourth time Washington
and Lee have worked together. Although it runs slightly longer than two
hours, the film is confusing enough, despite a real lack of tension, to
hold most peopleís interest.
It is diminished by the
presence of Madeleine White (Jodi Foster), who is intended to be a
mysterious, powerful power broker representing Arthur Case (Christopher
Plummer), who owns the bank Russell is robbing. She projects a friendly,
outgoing, happy-go-lucky, wisecracking nature. Despite the high quality
of Fosterís prior work, the personality she creates for White is
incongruous. Her attitude reduces the tension that a movie like this
should be producing in the audience. It just doesnít work here. But the
fault is not Fosterís alone. Sharing the blame should be Director Lee
and screenwriter Russell Gewirtz who created the role and orchestrated
how it was played.
The script presents a
well-considered story that has Frazier figuring that all is not what it
appears, despite little evidence to lead him to that conclusion. There
is so little substance to this film that thereís not much to say about
it, except that it is entertaining. There is no complexity of character
and virtually no character development. When the film ends, we know
little more about Russell, Frazier, White, and Case than we did when the
movie started. There is a strong implication of police corruption, but
thatís becoming de rigueur for Hollywood these days. Willem Dafoe makes
a nice appearance as Captain John Darius, but his character, like
Fosterís, seems thrown in just to get another star appearance. Same with
who appears as Detective Bill Mitchell, Frazierís partner. He adds
nothing to the story except to give Frazier someone with whom to speak.
Thatís the main problem I had with
this movie, to wit, why are these people there?
The film raises questions it
leaves unanswered, like how does Russell know what he knows about Case?
Russellís character is never explained; who is he? Why is he doing what
heís doing? Who are his compatriots?
The story is told in an
unusual, non linear manner, with flash-forwards to interviews with
people involved in the robbery a la Warren Beattyís ďRedsĒ (1981). The
best part of the movie is the cinematography by Matthew Libatique, that
gives interesting vantage points and a tracking shot near the end of the
film that is intriguing, but you have to be watching for it.
This is an undistinguished,
but entertaining film.
March 23, 2006