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Making of Inside Man
4 – Spike and Denzel discuss their collaboration
does anyone think Spike Lee could make…you know…a regular movie?"
Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer, Chiwetel Ejiofor,
Russell (Clive Owen) is sneaky and smart. He’s going to rob a bank. He wants
you to watch, and that smirk on his face exists because he knows no one will be
able to stop him doing it. Not even a couple of detectives — Frazier and
Mitchell (Denzel and Chiwetel) — and a legion of cops commanded by a seriously
de-energized Willem Dafoe. They haven’t got the right leverage, but Arthur Case
(Christopher Plummer), the owner of the bank, might. He employs a Madeline
White, a tough-ass broad disguised as a shady prime mover socialite, to get
inside and work the angles. (Not those angles.) What’s Dalton Russell really
after? Is Denzel’s detective as shady as he wants to appear? Just how much
post-911 tension and commentary can Spike Lee shoehorn into an airtight
thriller? The answer to the last question is: quite a bit.
"Billy, you can leave the Phantom Zone when you promise not to fuck up my latte."
heist movie junkie, there’s nothing like seeing big-name master turn to the
genre. I never thought Spike Lee would one to make the leap, but he’s got the
goods. When the cops and robbers stuff is on, watching Inside Man is like
mainlining finely aged 1970’s thrillers. This dope doesn’t knock you down — it
fosters alertness and the will to question every element that seems out of
means the film should also work just fine as a Spike Lee movie. Questioning
standards are what the guy is all about. Sometimes it does; the film is
completely intertwined with New York and peppered with shots at American
culture. Lee doesn’t get too distracted, and the opportunity to fire a few jabs
doesn’t derail the palpable tension that wracks most of the film.
wants too badly to be Sidney Lumet. (Irony, you flatten me.) Dog
Day Afternoon this is not. It’s got the heist down, but when it’s time
to throw in some modern culture observation, things take silly turns. There’s
the little gangsta kid with a PSP playing a super violent and obviously bad Grand Theft Auto sorta game, teaching
him that getting paid is all. Moments like that are Spike at his most
heavy-handed. Same goes for the lousy treatment a Muslim hostage gets when
freed from the bank. Scenes like that make valid points, but also make the
movie feel like the Schizoid Man.
I admire this speech-preparation technique, but when I try it I get distracted and forget everything.
still like it, because Denzel Washington, who so often looks like he’s taking
things awfully seriously, kicks the ass of every scene. Denzel’s detective is
immediately likeable, but his real feelings are played close to the vest, and
there’s always the sense that he’s as shadowy and unpredictable as the guys
he’s after. Chiwetel Ejiofor balances out Denzel; he’s the straightforward guy
who wants (a) a promotion and (b) to check out breasts. If his eyes had
tentacles, this would be UrotSpikeLeeDoji.
are tremendous fun to watch, especially when interacting with one another. And
breasts. Denzel earns his star billing this time, making some of his recent
work look a lot more like…work. He seems to get off on Spike’s take on the
heist, and his performance energizes every single scene he’s in. Denzel is
charged, and you can see the rest of the cast stepping up their game. Jodie
Foster plays along, demolishing her image as another too-serious actress in
favor of the sort of pure player approach that contemporaries like Meryl Streep
Gerwitz’s script doesn’t stray from standard heist ingredients, but it’s
obvious that the thing went through several rewrites (most of which are
acknowledged on the commentary) so I’m not going to blame him. Clive Owen has
cool but unrealistic tech; there are feints and crosses between the cops and
robbers, and the hostages and stolen goods are mostly just MacGuffins.
Crooklyn: The Machinima
because Spike won’t let the hostages just sit there. He grounds the movie with
improvised interrogations between the cops and hostages. Denzel and Chiwetel on
one side, various suspicious character actors on the other. These moments are
when Spike really lights his joint. They fit into the framework of the film
perfectly and also serve Spike’s need to comment on post-9/11 culture, without
the overt moralizing that makes those other scenes I mentioned clink so
inquisitions are made more impressive by cold tones provided by Matthew
Libatique, an inspired choice as cinematographer. No one shoots New York quite
like he does, and his eye is crucial to keeping us both off balance and fully
involved. He’s made me feel the intense uncertainty of waiting with the cops
outside a barricaded bank. And I love that he, Spike and Clive Owen are confident
enough to have Dalton Russell’s face entirely covered though half his scenes,
and frequently in deep darkness as well.
the heist winds down to a weak and comparatively ridiculous conclusion, Denzel,
Clive and Foster kept me rolling along. Spike wants Inside Man to be a
perfect blend of thriller and culture, and that never really gels, but I was so
entertained by all the stuff that works that I can easily forgive a few failed
Ask me again why I work with Tony Scott.
art isn’t going to turn any heads — it lacks that noirish vibe that has graced
posters like those for Ocean’s 11. But this time I’m not too put off by the
star power cover, since that’s the prime attraction of the film.
Spike Lee’s commentary is useless from any technical sense, but it’s fun when
he cackles explaining why a scene reminds him of the Wizard of Oz. And if you
missed all the nods to Dog Day Afternoon, he’s happy to
point them out. It’s also great to learn that many of the interrogation scenes
Is it weird that I think of deep fried chicken wings when Jodie oils up her legs like that?
deleted scenes add to the interrogation sequences, which is great. The first
clip actually cuts the interrogations into one long sequence, very different
from what we see in the film. There’s also a pretty funny urinal sequence
between Denzel and Dafoe that mirrors Spike Lee’s story about his first meeting
with Dafoe. The ‘making of’ is sort of a tease, since it left me wanting to see
the entire cast readthrough that we only get to glimpse. But it does allow me
to watch producer Brian Grazer say ‘the granulation of our cultural zeitgeist’
whenever I want, and that’s something.
7.8 out of 10