Retro Review: Inside Man

It seems like ever since the inception of film, Hollywood has had bank-robbers who dream of the perfect bank job. A job that goes down like clock-work and that the robber gets away unharmed.

Everything from the 1903 classic “Great Train Robbery” to 1975’s “Dog Day Afternoon” to 2001’s “The Score”, we have seen plans come and go.

This brings us all the way to the latest bank heist film, “Inside Man” which unlike any bank robbery film before it has not only a brilliant bank heist plan but a whole new twist we probably thought we would never see.

Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is being investigated after his previous case saw a share of the drug money recovered, disappear. Frazier is frustrated that no one in the department believes him.

When the top detective in the division is on holidays, the captain is forced to send Frazier downtown to investigate a bank heist gone awry where several hostages have been taken.

Could this be the chance for Frazier to find some redemption?

On the flipside of the case, master bank robber Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) has a master plan to pull off the perfect crime and that’s all the audience really knows about Russell is that he has a plan and he is a very smooth operator.

The film basically shows the face-off between Frazier and Russell with a sub-plot involving a bank executive (Christopher Plummer) and a woman (Jodie Foster) who has been assigned to keep the executive’s interests in check.

As you watch “Inside Man”, you find that you have to keep reminding yourself that this is in fact a Spike Lee film. On so many levels it doesn’t feel like a Lee movie at all. The film is brilliantly executed like it was conceived by the bank robber himself.

There are a couple circumstances where Lee’s influence on the film does come through especially involving a couple race comments, the New York City vibe and a couple social issue reminders. That said this is probably the closest we will ever see to Spike Lee going main stream.

I liked that the film also allowed for Denzel’s detective character to be on the edge and at times utterly desperate. Denzel seems to be at home playing a cop and he seems at ease picking up a policeman’s shield.

I really hope that Hollywood allows for Denzel to play other kinds of heroes at some point.

Owen’s robber is so full of perfect execution, arrogance and vigor that at times you are never sure if this man is human. To remain that devoted as both actor and character is probably difficult but Owen does it with such ease. It’s hard to relate to a character of this magnitude but utterly necessary for this film.

My favorite scene in the film involves Owen’s bank-robber discussing the violence in an 8-year old’s video game. The moment is priceless and if you look at it vintage Spike Lee.

Plummer and Foster are both excellent in their supporting characters and are very intricate to the plot.

I would love to see more on Foster’s character because there feels like so much more deep within this character.

I also really enjoyed the utterly unique choice of music in this film. There is almost a James Bond sort of score in some scenes and a very unique choice of vocal tracks for the opening and closing of the film.

I had some problems with the amount of time spent on interviewing subjects, annoying product placement and some disjointed humor. All this stuff seemed so out of place and unnecessary for this film.

Even with those minor annoyances I think “Inside Man” is one of or maybe the first great film of 2006.

(4 out of 5)

So Says the Soothsayer.

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