March 23, 2006

"Inside Man"

Good movie. It's a heist flick with Clive Owen playing the genius bankrobber who takes 50 hostages, Denzel Washington as the NYPD negotiator who slowly figures out the bankrobber has memorized the police manual that he's been working from, and Jodie Foster in a supporting role as a shady fix-it lady for the rich powerful who is hired by the owner of the bank (Christopher Plummer) to prevent the bankrobbers from getting incriminating documents in the vault. Meanwhile, every ethnicity in New York is barking amusing insults at each other. My wife says, "It's 'Crash' with a plot."

Spike Lee directs from a screenplay by (fortunately) someone else, and turns in a solid job. Spike's last movie "She Hate Me" was one of the worst auteur efforts in history. If gays can have marriage, Spiked asked, why can't African-Americans have polygamy? (My AmCon review is here.) But, Spike remains a talented guy as long as he doesn't author the script.

The comparison of Spike to Woody Allen that was widespread when Spike's first movie came out two decades ago, but that seems to have been forgotten since, remains valid: Like Woody, Spike is broadly if perhaps not deeply talented: he's a funny (if limited) actor, an above-average director, and a good writer of dialogue. Spike might be a more interesting social thinker than Woody -- he's a socially conservative black racist -- but his movies have been undone by several problems.

First, Spike is lousy at constructing plots. For example, despite the sterling cast of his 1991 "Mo' Better Blues" (Denzel Washington, Wesley Snipes, and Samuel L. Jackson) and its uplifting family values moral, it's just a mess of a storyline.

Second, he's never really been fully honest with himself about his socio-political views, so his movies tend to combine insight with preachy flapdoodle.

Third, unlike Woody, who can keep making movie after movie knowing that his target audience -- smart Jews -- is big enough (although just barely) to support him, Spike has suffered the disillusioning realization that his target audience -- smart blacks -- isn't big enough to let him make movies on the scale he wants. It's quite sad.

But, lacking control of the script in "Inside Man," Spike's talents can be displayed without his usual self-sabotage. In particular, he's the best director at goading New York actors into displays of ethnic animus. Being a world-class hater himself, he's terrific at bringing out the worst in people. Denzel Washington clearly relishes getting a role where he can be a nasty son-of-a-gun of a hero.

You can tell Clive Owen is a bankrobber with a heart of gold because he's not using a British accent like all the really bad guys in movies these days (e.g., Paul Bettany in "Firewall"). I'm not sure exactly what accent he is using -- it sounds pretty mid-Atlantic, like about where the Titanic hit the iceberg -- but it's not the usual evil English aristocrat criminal's accent.

Jodie Foster is perfectly cast as a Fema Superior, a smug super-fixer who takes on ethically delicate jobs for NYC's richest, like getting Osama bin Laden's nephew into an exclusive co-op building. I'm sure Google will send my way lots of inquiries of the "Jodie Foster lesbian" ilk, but this casting finally reflects the "Jodie Foster eugencist" theme in her personality that I pointed out back in 2000.

The subplot by screenwriter Russell Gewirtz -- Christopher Plummer is a billionaire banker trying to cover up the fact that he made his fortune as a Swiss banker in WWII working with the Nazis to steal from Jews -- is the usual Hollywood hokum. Plummer (of the "Sound of Music") is one of the oldest working minor stars, but even he was born in December of either 1927 or 1929 (sources disagree). So in either case he would have been a minor when World War II ended and thus isn't old enough to have made a fortune during WWII.

The only movie I've seen recently that pointed out that the few surviving genuine Nazi war criminals are now well into their dotage was the good Israeli film "Walk on Water." In contrast, New York and London are full of billionaires in their primes who made their fortunes looting Russia in the 1990s, but Hollywood instead seems to prefer Nazi war criminals as villains in movies set in present times. I wonder why?

My published articles are archived at -- Steve Sailer

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Saw this movie not realizing it was a Spike Lee film. My girlfriend, not being from the States doesn't really know who Lee is, bless her heart, and doesn't much care. Personally, his camera movement has always been too wooden for my tastes. Like watching a slide show. But the script...Oh boy, oh boy. What WILL we do? Glad you pointed out the age factor concerning Plummers character. But when the "hokum" as you called it, is mixed with morally self-righteous preaching, well then, you have a screenplay loaded with inexcusable flatulence. I mean, when the voice over starts about how the truth always comes back no matter how much you try to cover it up, I just marveled, yet again, at the chutzpah. In fact, now, I have reached the point where I interpret or translate the word "chutzpah" into "Psychotic Projection". The one good thing to come out of the movie was that I realized, once and for all, that; though millions of us were hypnotized by such preachiness and dishonesty, in the past; just as many of us are snapping out of the trance and can see the whole charade for what it is.