Outside Man Looking In

Well here’s a bankable cast: Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, and Clive Owen. It’s no Ocean’s 500, but “Inside Man” holds water, even if there might be holes. Spike Lee’s latest film involves a group of men which takes over a Manhattan bank and holds everyone inside hostage. The ringleader is Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and he claims to have a perfect plan. Working on foiling or figuring out the plan is police detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington), accompanied by his partner-in-banter Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor). And a surprising third party also takes part in the spectacle through the form of Jodie Foster, who plays Madeleine White – an “off the records” officer of sort. She represents the bank owner (Christopher Plummer), who wants something vital out of a safety deposit box.

Screenwriter Russell Gewirtz scores some precious points for the movie. The characters are ripe enough (that Jodie Foster is deliciously mysterious); the dialogue has enough wit and humor (Washington is deliciously savoring some of his lines); and the story’s big twist is clever enough (Clive Owen trying not to get deliciously “derailed” this time). Even the direction has some nice touches, since Spike Lee can’t go wrong with a New York sense of style. But with such great assets, its very flawed plotting almost robs the show. The middle chunk of the movie is so uneventful that people with me started falling asleep. Plotting, plotting, plotting. The writers of the show “24” excel in this because they have to make every hour count. In “Inside Man,” only the final act seems to have been paid attention to. So if someone tells you about the ending, would the movie still be good?

Grade: B+

Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe, Christopher Plummer, and Chiwetel Ejiofor
Screenplay by
Russell Gewirtz
Directed by
Spike Lee
Rated R for language and some violent images