Sunday, May 07, 2006

Inside Man (2006)

It's a heist thriller in name, but it's a loose comedy about New York City in spirit. What's impressive is how director Spike Lee balances these two impulses so that one doesn't deflate the other; the tension inherent in the situation stays fresh even as Denzel Washington is joking around with Chiwetel Ejiofor or ogling a woman meant to help translate some Albanian dialogue. His racial conscience, too, shows up intact but moderated (i.e. the scene with the cops and the Sikh), so that it doesn't overwhelm the Hollywood-at-heart proceedings. The title hints at the places the story eventually goes (it's a three-way pun!), but the exact nature of said revelations is surprising. (It's what inside that counts, etc.) Spike's direction has the confidence of a grifter who knows he's gonna take all your money. The acting, headed up by Denzel's cocksure commander, is also stellar on all counts. I actually agree with most of Ebert's complaints vis-a-vis the plot, but I also don't really care -- this is some damn fine entertainment.

Grade: B+


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