Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Inside Man

2006, US, directed by Spike Lee

On the surface, Inside Man, which functions to absorbing effect as a superior heist film, isn't the most profound of Spike Lee's films, but inside the form of a well-tooled Hollywood thriller many of the details are a continuation of the portrait of post-9/11 New York City that began with 25th Hour in 2002. Those details add layers of richness to an already intricate structure, and the casting directors deserve credit for assembling a fine supporting gallery that gives a sense of the diversity of the city's streets, as seen through the cross-section of society working or doing business in and near a Manhattan bank.

Lee is canny enough, though, to ensure that however diverting the support might be (and there are nice anecdotal scenes featuring, among others, a construction worker, a ribald Albanian woman, a rabbi, an aggrieved Sikh or a young Brooklynite with an unhealthy interest in video-game violence), they never upstage his excellent leads, particularly Denzel Washington and Clive Owen. Both are on top of their game, smoothly watchable, and lending conviction to what are, in many ways, standard genre roles; after four movies together, Lee also knows exactly how to use Washington's enormous reserves of charm (there's a treasurable moment, near the beginning, where the director signals just what kind of style Washington will bring to the part).

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Boston, Massachusetts, United States