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Inside Man
Posted to Movies at 01:21 PM on Jan 25, 2007

2006. Universal Pictures/Imagine Entertainment. Directed by Spike Lee. Starring Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer.

The words "subtle" and "nuanced" are nowhere in Spike Lee's vocabulary. If there were a course at film school called "Filmmaking By Sledgehammer", he'd be the professor. Inside Man is about as close to subtle as Spike Lee will ever get.

I would pay to watch Clive Owen shop and pay his bills. That's the only reason I was interested in this film in the first place. He delivers. He's great. He's the perfect tough guy in every film he's been in, and in this film, he's a tough guy with a conscience. He's a bank robber with a cause. He's sharp as a tack and doesn't take any nonsense.

And really, he's the only good part of the movie. There's a pretty good film lurking in there somewhere, but Lee just has to go and pad it with a bunch of typical Spike Lee knee-jerk political commentary. The premise of the movie is interesting enough. And there are moments that are really truly inspired. They're hidden, however, behind a silly, convoluted parable involving blood diamonds and nazis and some other dumb stuff I couldn't even keep track of.

The other performances in the movie were either boring (Washington) or infuriatingly bad (Foster). Now, I like and admire Jodie Foster. I think she's done a lot of solid work. In this movie, she is a sort of a double agent. She's trying to talk Owen's character down while helping to prevent Christopher Plummer's nasty secret from getting out.

I like Jodie. But, God, does she suck in this movie. She's almost as useless as Katie Holmes in Thank You For Smoking (review forthcoming). I hate when good actresses get such vapid, pointless parts. We're supposed to think her character is a badass but Foster plays her like a sorority bimbo scheming to steal a car from in front of a frathouse. She's somehow unconvincing and obnoxious at the same time.

Denzel Washington has played variations of the same dude for twenty years now. There are times when this character fits into the structure of a movie well, and there are times when watching that character just grates. This is one of the latter. His character is so generic and unremarkable that it's hard to care if he catches Owen.


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