Monday, March 27, 2006

Review: Inside Man

Non-spoiler section:

So I saw Inside Man on Sunday. Overall, I'd give it a thumbs up, I guess, but this is one of those movies that, the more I think about it, the less I like it.

That's the sign of a movie that looks good but doesn't deliver.

Spike Lee does a good job with the aesthetic quality of the film - it looks sleek and it looks cool. But the story and characters fail to live up to the billing and belie the very high rating this movie has gotten on Right now, the fresh rating is sitting at around 90% with an average 7.5/10 rating. That's pretty darn good.

But what was so likeable?

I liked Denzel Washington and his sidekick detective played by Chiwetel Ejiofor (Serenity). Clive Owen was pretty interesting in an understated way and even Willem Dafoe puts in a pretty straight-laced performance (and that's saying something) as a police captain, while Christopher Plummer is Christopher Plummer.

Jodie Foster? Well, she sucks. The more I think about it, the more she sucks.

She plays a "problem solver" of sorts and a bit of a bitch, neither of which is done well. Her character is a caricature and obnoxious. Booooring.

Roger Ebert turned in one of the few "rotten" reviews, and after reading it, I feel he hits the nail right on the head, echoing many of my sentiments on the film. His review is here, and while he tries to avoid spoilers, there are a couple in there, so caveat emptor.

While Foster may have been annoying, what gets me about this movie is the resolution. It's...disappointing. A significant portion is tipped off early in the film and I couldn't help but wonder why. Once the payoff of a heist flick is revealed, what's left? Only the characters - and we realize in the 20 minute epilogue that we just don't care that much about them.

Pros: Denzel, look, bit players
Cons: Foster, resolution, motivations
Overall: 7/10 - a couple of rewrites would have helped

Spoiler section (read only if you've seen the movie):

Alright, what the hell was the purpose of having Foster in that movie? Her character was completely useless and she was horrifically miscast. She could have literally ended up on the cutting room floor and I don't think the movie would have been affected in any way. She has the one scene where Owen explains the documents in the envelope (sorta) but we know all that already, sooo? She didn't advance the plot, her character was ridiculously obnoxious, and she has no observable skills that would give her this "problem solver" designation. She tries to buy the guy off. Ooooooo....

And exactly what was the motivation for the heist? For Owen, yeah, he did it for the money. But it's pretty clear that the box was the major target and the envelope in particular. One would assume that the Jewish guy in the back seat of the car was the real catalyst behind the robbery, but who is he and just how did he know what was in the envelope? And why in the hell would Plummer keep those documents and the ring? He says he should have destroyed them long ago...what was the purpose in keeping them after 1945? And surely he could never sell that diamond, so...?

And the means by which they might catch the robbers seemed fairly evident to me: they left the bags of clothes behind - get people to come in and claim their clothes one by one. The robbers, who took off no clothes, will have to grab clothes from the pile. Eventually, someone will not be able to find all of their clothes because the robbers will have taken some. At that point, you've narrowed the field. The robbers have to be either people who have complained that they can't find their clothes, or are wearing clothes those people will claim are theirs. Then, you just have to grill those folks. The field would be limited. But it occurs to me that even that might be unnecessary; the victims were all stripped to their underwear - why was the one girl with the large breasts (there were actually two) still wearing her tank top under the painter's clothes? That should have been a dead give away. Of course, the detectives were busy observing her talents (man, that was funny) so maybe they didn't notice. (did that actress look familiar? She might have if you were unfortunate enough to have watched Blair Witch II)

And why did they tip the fact that the robbers got away and that they were amongst the crowd? I mean, you figure that out as soon as they interview two people in painters outfits and they start questioning people about their involvement. And you know that when Clive Owen says he's gonna walk out the front door that that's exactly what he's gonna do. Once all that is revealed, the rest of the movie has to have enough twists to keep you interested. In the end, I don't think the movie had enough to make the payoff anything but disappointing.

Another pet peeve I have is that the publicity shots included a shot of Foster and Denzel from near the end. Denzel is wearing a very dapper suit and they are sitting in a seemingly prominent place, so you know that things are going to turn out well for Denzel and that they'll have a civilized conversation at the end. This is precisely the sort of thing you don't want to reveal in a thriller. Always leave the ending in doubt.

So, yeah, I kinda enjoyed the film while I was sitting in the theatre, but I couldn't help but be disappointed by the end and I like the movie less and less the more I think about it. The significant praise the film is getting might just go to show how few and far between great Hollywood flicks are these days.

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