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25th Hour (15)



Review by: Jack Foley | Rating: Two

DVD SPECIAL FEATURES: Commentary by Spike Lee; Commentary by writer/author David Benioff; Deleted scenes; 'The Evolution of an American Filmmaker' featurette; Ground Zero: A Tribute.

DRUG dealer, Monty Brogan, is a man who had it all. A plush apartment, a gorgeous girlfriend and a life that opened doors to the best clubs in New York. Yet now he is going to jail for seven years and has only 24 hours to try and patch things up with his father, hang out with his oldest friends and try and find out who tipped off the cops.

Written by David Benioff, and directed by Spike Lee, The 25th Hour is a truly addictive piece of cinema, one which works both as a riveting character study into one man’s choices, and as a gritty social commentary on the state of New York, post-September 11.

Opening with various shots of the NY skyline, with spotlights marking the place where the Twin Towers once stood, the film seldom loses its grip, serving as both a timely reminder of the events of that terrible day and of Lee’s long overloooked talent as a director.

How far viewers want to run with the character of Brogan as a metaphor for the Big Apple, or the United States as a whole, is left to the viewer, for the story is told in such a way that it never becomes overbearing, laboured or, crucially in this day and age, overly patriotic.

And who better to take on the role of Brogan than Edward Norton, an actor who has seldom shyed away from portraying difficult characters, and who turns in a tour-de-force as the dealer in question - a man faced with the prospect of a jail term from which he might never return, yet desperate to atone for the ‘sins’ of a selfish life.

His frustration and rage is eventually unleashed in a quite stunning sequence in the toilet of his father’s bar, when he furiously vents his anger at all of New York’s inhabitants before turning the vitriol on himself.

The support cast, too, provide plenty for Norton to work with, most notably the ever-reliable Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper, as, respectively, a teacher struggling to come to terms with the attentions of an alluring student (Anna Paquin) and a Wall Street hotshot who figures Brogan has got what he deserves.

Brian Cox is also terrific, as Brogan’s father, a former firefighter who has never given up hope on his son, while Rosario Dawson rises above her good looks to deliver a suitably feisty turn as Brogan’s long-time girlfriend - considered by many to be the one who gave him up to the cops.

Lee’s direction also contains some bravura moments, most notably a scene overlooking Ground Zero just after September 11 in which Hoffman and Pepper discuss the choices facing Brogan, and the final act between the friends, which is as shocking as it is heartbreaking.

And the final praise must go to writer, Benioff, himself, who has adapted the screenplay from his own novel to produce a lasting, honest and powerful character study that contains an emotional intensity rarely seen in mainstream cinema.

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