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INSIDE MAN by Spike Lee


Dalton Russel (Clive Owen) tells the audience he has the perfect plan to rob a bank, and it seems he is right – masked as painters, he and his accomplices go into a Manhattan bank, take the customers and clerks as hostages and start negotiations with police negotiator Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington). Russel has everything under control, and it takes some time until Frazier realizes this is not a normal bank robbery. Mysterious Madeline White’s (Jodie Foster) intervention, authorized by the mayor, doesn’t help but just increases Frazier’s confusion.

Why does the obviously highly intelligent Russel demand an airplane for his escape when he must know he will never get one? What does Madeline White know that Frazier doesn’t know? And why are the robbers digging a hole in the ground of a storage room? And if this is a bank robbery, who are the robbers and why isn’t any money missing?

Thanks to Spike Lee for giving Clive Owen a part in a movie that does not suck! Masked for the most part of the film, Clive is convincing and a pleasure to watch as the cold and smart mastermind of a masterfully planned heist. Denzel Washington is Denzel Washington – reliable, but not shining in the only role that’s characterized and not a cliché. Jodie Foster is not a victim in INSIDE MAN for a change, and she obviously enjoys it, even if her character is in fact superfluous for the plot.
The setup is great – it’s another heist movie, but that’s OK because we have a convincing bad guy and we want to know more about the ‘perfect’ plan. Good camera-work (Matthew Libatique), acting, and a neat use of flash-forwards keeps us interested, but – such is life – we want more, we want the tension to rise and we want a climactic ending!
Unfortunately, we are let down – there is no ‘grand finale’, and what we get is neither convincing nor satisfying. It’s not Spike Lee’s nor the actors’ fault, it’s first-time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz’ script that’s just not as well-planned as Dalton Russel’s heist.

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