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Reviews » DVD Video Reviews » Inside Man
Inside Man
Universal // R // August 8, 2006
List Price: $29.98 [Buy now and save at Amazon]
Review by Preston Jones | posted July 30, 2006 | E-mail the Author
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The Movie

Many labeled Inside Man as director Spike Lee's most mainstream movie yet and in some ways, it is, but that doesn't stop the director from adding his signature flourishes (Terence Blanchard's jazz-heavy score, kinetic camerawork from adventurous cinematographer Matthew Libatique, pointed social commentary) that distinguish this crime drama from your average run-of-the-mill multiplex fare.

At least he assembled a killer cast: Along with Owen portraying Dalton Russell, the tough-as-nails thief, Denzel Washington re-teams with Lee for the fourth time, along with Jodie Foster, Willem Dafoe and Lee veterans Chiwetel Ejiofor and Christopher Plummer. It's a cracking lineup sadly wasted; only Washington rips into his role with the hunger of a jazz musician – it's almost as though you can see him giddily improvising his way through each scene. Penned by first-timer Russell Gewirtz, Inside Man begins with Dalton outlining his "perfect crime" – a bank robbery that has seemingly every angle covered, until of course, it escalates into a hostage situation. The police quickly clamp down on the situation, led by weary veteran Detective Keith Frazier (Washington). As the tension mounts, Frazier plays his part in a dangerous game of cat and mouse, fighting to keep control of the situation, despite attempts at outside influences, particularly from the mysterious Madeline White (Foster).

I won't spoil what surprises Inside Man does offer, but suffice to say that the murky resolutions won't have you shocked at the narrative twists, but rather muttering grumpily. As the overlong and needlessly ambiguous finale drags on, I became more and more angry at Lee's seemingly blithe indifference toward destroying a perfectly serviceable Dog Day Afternoon homage (which, of course, is name-checked by Washington's character).

Tragically, while the performances of Inside Man are certainly worth your time (Washington, Owen and Plummer, in particular), Gewirtz's amateur screenplay – an exercise in yanking the rug from beneath viewers – coupled with Lee's seeming incapability isn't worth the energy it takes to finish off a box of Milk Duds. If you were a cynical sort, you could make the argument that Lee's best films are behind him – 2002's 25th Hour was the last great film the New Yorker made and since then, he's merely been marking time. Inside Man isn't much of an argument for his skills; sure, the film's slick and compelling to a point, but the distended conclusion left me wondering what attracted him to the project in the first place.

The DVD

The Video:

Inside Man is presented with a pristine 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen transfer that makes Matthew Libatique's kinetic cinematography pop off the screen. Blacks are rich and inky, there's no video noise and the image is razor sharp throughout.

The Audio:

A robust, immersive Dolby Digital 5.1 track is available here, with plenty of punch and surround activity, as well as clearly heard dialogue. Inside Man sounds as good as it looks and English, Spanish and French subtitles are on board, as well.

The Extras:

What's included is pretty standard supplemental fare: the notoriously loquacious Lee contributes a commentary track, recorded on his 49th birthday, which was also the day of the Inside Man premiere. There are quite a few gaps of silence and nothing he mentions is earth-shattering; Lee talks about how the project came together and various tidbits about the production. There are five deleted scenes included, playable separately or all together in anamorphic widescreen, that run for about 19 minutes (not the "over 25 minutes!" advertised on the DVD case); the 10 minute "The Making of 'Inside Man'" is pretty routine EPK fluff and the 10 minute "Number 4" is a fun, relaxed conversation between Lee and Washington about the four films they've collaborated on.

Final Thoughts:

Inside Man isn't much of an argument for Spike Lee's skills; sure, the film's slick and compelling to a point, but the distended conclusion left me wondering what attracted him to the project in the first place. Nevertheless, the assembled cast delivers terrific performances, making the film worth watching at least once. Recommended.

Portions of this review were reprinted from the Oklahoma Gazette.
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