Inside Man (2006)

(In theaters, March 2006) Once past the initial shock of surprise (No way! Spike Lee is trying for a mainstream movie! And look at that cast!), the best things about Inside Man is how it doesn’t disappoint. Oh, the script is generously riddled with embarrassing holes and arguable developments, but it’s so well-rounded with spicy characterization that it’s hard to care. What’s more, the dream-project cast is a sheer pleasure to watch, from the sheer coolness of Denzel Washington and Clive Owen to the brainy iciness of Jodie Foster all the way to head-turning screen-melting performances by newcomers Samantha Ivers and Florina Petcu. (The cast is so top-heavy that even solid players such as Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer get barely a passing mention.) The accumulation of details and quirky character moments is what truly makes this a solid thriller, helping in overlooking a familiar premise and story problems. It helps that both the script and the director wholeheartedly embrace New York in all of its cosmopolitan quirkiness, lending a very modern feel to the whole thing. For the first ninety minutes, Inside Man is a thriller at the top of its genre, moving quickly and efficiently with considerable wit and charm. It does lose a lot of energy during its last thirty minutes, bogging down in details that seem redundant and laboured after its excellent start. But no matter: Despite the flaccid last act, all that remains is a solid thriller, a fabulously entertaining movie and some of the best work in a while for all the names involved in the film. This is top-notch studio entertainment: I’ll let other decide whether Spike Lee has sold out or not, but as far as I’m concerned, I can only ask for more.

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