It's like climbing on a scary-looking roller coaster and then having to sit there as it crawls along at three miles per hour.
It's become an axiom of Spike Lee films that anything worth saying is said twice. Or three times. Or more. Because if it's worth saying, it's worth saying twice. Or three times. See how annoying it is?
"Inside Man" looks like a thriller, smells like a thriller, and has the high-powered cast of a thriller. Sadly, it's like climbing on a scary-looking roller coaster and then having to sit there as it crawls along at three miles per hour. By reiterating his key points ad infinitum in an apparent attempt to drag his movie over the two-hour mark, Lee stretches the plot like an old rubber band, leaving the audience to wait for the thing to snap back in our face.
A group of sophisticated robbers led by Dalton Russsell (Clive Owen) takes hostages in a Wall St. bank, and the cops are quick to respond (watch for the three-wheeled traffic-enforcement cart which comes roaring up officiously on the crime scene). The competent detective is out of town, so it's Keith Frazier's (Denzel Washington) time to shine. He arrives on the scene and waits. Dalton and his crew shuffle the hostages around and wait. Meanwhile, the bank chairman (Christopher Plummer) adopts the pained look of a rich white guy with a horrible secret that's in danger of being discovered and hires high-end, well-connected "fixer" Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) to wade into the situation and, well, fix it. Madeline's chief qualification seems to be the ability to strut around confidently with a bigger smirk on her face than George W. Bush drunk on communion wine.
The "twists" in this film are about as subtle as the ones in the Champagne Room at your local strip club. When the cops send food in to the hostage scene, they hide listening devices in the pizza boxes. Then they gather around the radio, baffled to hear a lot of babbling in an Eastern European language. Filmgoers with an IQ higher than their shoe size are quick to figure out that the crooks have simply turned on a radio or something to trick the cops, but it takes a good 30 minutes for Frazier's crack team to reach the same conclusion and reveal this "surprise" to the audience. Similarly, when the criminals demand a 747, it's instantly obvious that this is a red herring that has nothing to do with their real agenda, but Lee presents it like we�re discovering the cure for cancer. It's like opening a big, gift-wrapped box marked "surprise" where the only surprise turns out to be the fact that the box is empty.
"Inside Man" opens with the promise of delivering "the ultimate robbery" but ends up conducting one on the audience.
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