Heist films come in two flavors: films noirs like The Asphalt Jungle and Dog Day Afternoon in which the well-laid plans of a crew of thieves unravel and implode, and cunning capers like To Catch a Thief and The Thomas Crown Affair in which a clever thief outwits both the cops and the audience. We like the first because bad guys should be punished. We like the second because we want our anti-heroes to get away.
With an edgy Hollywood outsider like Spike Lee directing this particular heist, the smart money might be on the noir genre, particularly since Inside Man has so many references to director Sidney Lumet's Dog Day Afternoon. Still, with heartthrob Clive Owen playing bank robber Dalton Russell, it seems unlikely audiences will applaud his demise.
Either way, the real pleasure of Lees film comes from the cat-and-mouse game between Russell and Denzel Washington's Detective Keith Frazier, an ambitious and savvy cop with plenty of smarts and cunning of his own. Watching these two feint and jab at each other is like seeing Ali dance with Smokin' Joe. You want them both to win. At its heart Inside Man is a buddy movie, with two competitors playing at the top of their game, and audiences savoring the pleasure of the company of both of them.
Other treats in this small jewel of a film come from watching the bank robbers pull off their heist with the silky precision and coordination of a Swiss timepiece, and from seeing ice queen insurance consultant Madeline White (Jodie Foster) move back and forth between cops and robbers with the buttery neutrality of a Swiss banker. Halfway through the story Lees caper film morphs into something a bit more interesting, and Christopher Plummer offers a chilling little turn as the good-bad guy who may have had it coming all along. As Bogie said in The Maltese Falcon, somebody has to take the fall.
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|Article Type:||Movie review|
|Date:||Jun 1, 2006|
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