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inside man Inside Man
Directed By:
Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owem, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, William Dafoe

Written by:
Ricardo Barberini

June 26, 2007

We saw Denzel Washington as Malcolm X nearly fifteen years ago.  It was a riveting performance.  It was as if he had been standing on the left hand of Malcolm during all those years of turbulence and was now ready to present Malcolm X’s side of the story.   


He was nominated for an Academy Award and sadly lost to Al Pacino and his wishy-washy performance as a blind man in the Scent of a Woman.  We could have even understood if Clint Eastwood, who was also nominated for his wonderful portrayal in the Unforgiven had won the award, but it was a travesty for Denzel not to win the award.  The establishment candidate won.

Denzel Washington has played diverse characters in many movies since them. Some like the Pelican Brief and Philadelphia were original stories and some like the Crimson Tide and the Manchurian Candidate were a knockoff of older movies.  But, he has generally been a professional. 

The story is simple enough.  A few villains headed by an extremely intelligent leader, named Dalton Russell and played by Clive Owen, plan to rob a bank.  The New York City police find out about it as the robbery is in progress.  The police captain in charge, assigns two of his second tier detectives, Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) to the case.  Frazier first tries to negotiate and talk bank robbers out of the bank, but the bank robbers don’t budge.  

There is another twist here that has an impact on the story.  The president and owner of the bank Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) has a big secret to hide and is concerned that the bank robbers will find the stash of gems that he has hidden in his safe deposit box at the bank.  Moreover, Arthur Case was a Nazi collaborator during World War II who betrayed many Jewish families to the Nazis and is now afraid that the public will find out about his indiscretion.   Arthur hires a top notch troubleshooter Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to negotiate with the bank robbers to make sure that they do not access his personal safe deposit box which is in the vault in the bank.   But, it is not only his Nazi past that is in the safe deposit box! 

The fact is that Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his friends are not interested in robbing the bank.  They are interested solely in the contents of the bank president’s safe deposit box since it has information about his Nazi past and also a purse full of diamonds that really belonged to his victims.

Since there are hostages involved, the detectives try to negotiate for the release of hostages.  Finally, in desperation the police storm the bank but find none of the perpetrators.    There are a few twists and turns but the story is your basic thriller/crime genre.  

Denzel as Frazier is a rather overweight detective who is assigned to the case.  We all know that bank robbery is one of the stupidest crimes that a person could commit.  The rewards are miniscule and the punishment is years in prison.  You would usually get less for murder in some states than for bank robbery.  The bank robbers are usually teenagers or persons of shallow intelligence.  Hence, Denzel should have known from the beginning that the bank robbers had something else in mind.

The plot is rather dumb, but it is developed intelligently enough to make the movie worth watching.   As for acting in this movie, there were no standout characters.  Denzel Washington was rather placid and Chiwetel Ejiofor stayed in the shadows throughout.  Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer and William Dafoe are good actors but did not add much artistic value to this movie.  Clive Owen is usually a good, but not great, actor and he was ok here.  I am still bothered by his pained facial expression in movies. He seems to be playing the same character over and over again.   The story has a major flaw.  Based on the timeline of the bank robbery, Arthur Case must be at least over 90 years old.  He must have been around 25 to 35 in the late thirties or early forties to betray his clients.  The math does not add up. 

The direction by Spike Lee was good but not masterful.  He has always been rather controversial.  Some may think that he has a chip on his shoulder.  He has that certain cockiness that can sometimes be off putting. Anyway, he can be a good director when he sets his mind to it,

We give this DVD starstar.  There are no sexual references and it is pure entertainment for the entire family.  We would rent this movie.

Category:  Crime, Thriller, Mystery

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