A police detective, a bank robber, and a high-power broker enter high-stakes negotiations after the criminal's brilliant heist spirals into a hostage situation.A police detective, a bank robber, and a high-power broker enter high-stakes negotiations after the criminal's brilliant heist spirals into a hostage situation.A police detective, a bank robber, and a high-power broker enter high-stakes negotiations after the criminal's brilliant heist spirals into a hostage situation.
Washington plays Det. Frazier, a hostage negotiator who acts, literally, as if this is his first case. He has the obligatory younger partner (Chiwetel Ejiofor, "Serenity") who exists so Frazier can explain his theories and the obligatory ESU commander who wants to go in and shoot everyone (Willem Dafoe, sadly underused). Owen plays the bank robber, about whom frustratingly nothing is known except what he said into the camera in the trailer. Finally, Foster plays some sort of player amongst the Powers That Be who walks into the mayor's office, demands an update, and is given "every possible courtesy", etc. She serves no purpose whatsoever, not even in a clichéd action movie type of way like Dafoe and Ejiofor. The performances are the only good part of the movie, but there are times when you can tell that the actors wished they were in a better film. They're giving it their all, and they're getting no help from anyone else involved.
Spike Lee is up to his usual tricks here, which, in this type of movie, is a very bad thing. The details of the heist itself I won't disclose. I can't. The action is, at best, vague - extremely brief scenes of vaults opening, hole-digging, hostage roughing up, and the usual bank-robber stuff are all the details we really get. It is also inter cut with scenes of the hostages recalling the heist; their recollections serve no purpose except to confuse the audience further. "Inside Man" is curiously racist: the white crooks rough up the black bank customers, the white Foster and the mayor order around Washington, the white cops mistake a Sikh for an Arab and beat him, and even a Jewish hostage was not only a lawyer, but has a nephew who is a jeweler. Washington and Ejiofor are given no flaws whatsoever and are seen mostly being pushed around by everyone else in the movie. The action repeatedly grinds to a halt so Lee can insert quirky little subplots involving video games, Washington's much younger girlfriend and random Albanian women. They're at best unnecessary, at worst, disastrous. If we had been given a director with more focus, there is the feeling that this could have been a lean, mean thriller. But it drags and drags and drags and when we get to the end, we understand why the film stalled for so long: the ending is about as climatic as erectile dysfunction.
"Inside Man" looked like it had it all - great cast, good concept, reputable director, but the end result is a near-disaster. It's like someone threw "Dog Day Afternoon" into a blender, drank it, and vomited it back onto the screen. As I stumbled out of the theater, deprived of my money and time, I cursed the screen gods who thought to tease me with such an improbably bad movie. I thought back to a better day, when a movie at least knew what was going on even if the audience didn't, gave us characters who seemed like actual people and served actual purposes to the plot, so that even if we had to wait until the Big Twist to answer our questions, we at least had a reason to still care.
- Apr 9, 2006