INSIDE MAN - 2006
40 Acres and a Mule Filmworks / Imagine Entertainment / Universal Pictures
Rated: Australia: MA / Denmark: 11 / Finland: K-15 / Germany: 12 / Iceland: 16 / Ireland: 15A / Hong Kong: IIB / South Korea, UK:15 / Switzerland, Netherlands:12 / Singapore: NC-16 / USA: R
We begin with a voice. This man tells you who he is, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen: THE BOURNE IDENTITY, I'LL SLEEP WHEN I'M DEAD, SIN CITY, DERAILED) where he is, and what he's doing. He also tells you what he's about to do. What he doesn't tell you is, why.
"And there, as the Bard said, lies the rub."
A van pulls up to a bank, suspicious people get out. One man dressed in what appears to be some kind of electrical repairman clothes, walks inside the bank and, using what appear to be large industrial flashlights, surreptitiously knocks out every camera in the bank.
And then? Then Merry Mishaps occur.
For the rest of the INSIDE MAN, the would be bank robbers, who are holding every innocent inside as hostage, begin a showdown with the police.
The two detectives on the job are Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington: THE BONE COLLECTOR, THE MANCHURIAN CANDIDATE ) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor: SERENITY). Keith is the senior man and has had some experience with these situations before. But he also has problems. An internal investigation is being conducted into his work. He might be a dirty cop.
As the situation unfolds, Keith Frazier finds himself being pulled in all of the wrong directions. His superiors should be demanding that he solve the situation inside the bank. The owner of the bank should be more concerned that someone is trying to rob his business and that someone has captured a slew of potential litigants.
What Keith is finding, instead, is that a mysterious woman, Madeline White (Jodie Foster: THE SILENCE OF THE LAMBS, PANIC ROOM) has the mayor's ear and is being given preferential treatment over Keith, which could jeapordize the lives of the hostages.
Det. Frazier also has to deal with an itchy Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe: eXistenZ, AMERICAN PSYCHO, SPIDER-MAN, SPIDER-MAN 2), who wants nothing more than an excuse to rush the bank, guns blazing, and firing at anything that moves under the discretion of "acceptable losses".
There is also the situation with Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer: DRACULA 2000). Arthur appears helpful, but he doesn't seemed to be all that unnerved as to what is happening in his flagship bank.
If you think you've figured out what is going on, you're probably wrong.
Because Screenwriter, Russell Gerwitz, has wrote a very taut thriller, and Director Spike Lee knows just how to direct it.
As INSIDE MAN progresses, Det. Frazier finds himself stymied at every turn. Between the bank robbers, who aren't behaving like they want to leave, and his superiors, who act like they don't want him to solve the crime taking place, Frazier finds himself falling into a circular mystery that spirals in like a nautilus, even threatening his own career. There are too many mysteries going on at once.
We learn a little bit more. Like why Arthur hired Madeline. Why Madeline pressured the Mayor to let her talk directly to the bank robbers, and why the robbers are really there.
But none of that explains how they hope to get out of, what is likely, the most media covered, hopeless situation, flawed bank robbery ever.
The acting is sharp, the Direction is near perfection, and the story is near perfection. There is just one flaw.
A plot device that begs the question, "Why?"
There is a giant secret that has been kept in a safe deposit box. Very few of the people involved know what is inside that box. Many of them, even at the top, are granting favors in return for silence on their own closeted skeletons: None of which matters. Why would anyone hide a terrible secret, which can only adversely affect them, in a safe deposit box? Why not destroy that single shred of evidence instead of having it hang over your head forever? What is the point?
Well, as an audience, you could say that the guilty person subconsciously wanted to be caught. But that kind of revelation should be made in the movie, not as a bandage excuse created by the viewer.
As such, as good as INSIDE MAN is, and as much as I liked it otherwise, this question, which is even asked by two of the characters in the movie (!), is never answered - not even inadequately! By the end of the movie, this huge freaking question is simply ignored.
Three Shriek Girls.
copyright 2006 E.C.McMullen Jr.
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