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Inside Man - Review

Denzel Washington in Inside Man

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 5 out of 5

CRIME thrillers don’t come much better than Inside Man, a super-slick heist movie that certainly won’t leave audiences feeling robbed.

In what is arguably Spike Lee’s most commercial and enjoyable work to date, the director has united a crackerjack cast for a complex but pleasing caper movie that pays respectful homage to the likes of Dog Day Afternoon while tipping its hat to some of the political tensions of the moment.

The film picks up as four robbers, led by Clive Owen’s smart, calculating Dalton Russell, take over a Manhattan bank disguised as painters, before holding about 50 people hostage.

Enter Denzel Washington’s hostage negotiator Keith Frazier, a man struggling to clear his name from a corruption scandal, his partner Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) and emergency services unit Capt. John Darius (Willem Dafoe) to begin the arduous process of securing a safe outcome.

But things aren’t quite what they seem, especially since the bank’s elderly board chairman Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) seems more concerned about items in a safety depsit box rather than the vault itself and employs power broker Madeline White (Jode Foster) to act as a go-between.

To reveal too much more would be doing a disservice to Russell Gewirtz’s excellent screenplay which thrives on the cat-and-mouse struggle that exists between each of the central players.

Washington, as ever, sinks his teeth into another flawed but charismatic leading man, desperate to prove himself against a clever enemy, while Owen capably stands toe to toe with him as the impossibly calm villain, whose laidback demeanour is sure to draw favourable comparisons with Alan Rickman’s scene-stealer in Die Hard.

Foster, too, is good value as a power-hungry bitch, while Ejiofor strikes a near-perfect chemistry with Washington that positively crackles with energy.

Gewirtz’s script is also a key player, capably keeping audiences on their toes while tossing in plenty of references to the classic heist movies of the ‘70s, while also being savvy enough to draw on the racial tensions that exist in a post-9/11 NYC.

There are several exchanges that hit with all the accuracy of a sniper’s bullet, including a wonderful aside about an over-violent computer game and the treatment of certain ethnic minority hostages by both the robbers and the NYPD.

Crucially, however, the film doesn’t resort to cheap tactics even when the motives start to become clear and remains astute enough to provide a pay-off that’s every bit as satisfying as the set-up itself.

The result provides an utterly compelling experience that deserves to stand proudly among the best that the genre has to offer. You can bank on this to offer a good time.

Spike Lee interview

Certificate: 15
Running time: 130mins