Thursday Night Movie Club
Inside Man
star rating graphicstar rating graphic½
Release Date: March 24, 2006

Director: Spike Lee
Denzel Washington
Clive Owen
Jodie Foster
Christopher Plummer
Willem Dafoe
Chiwetel Ejiofor
Carlos Andrés Gómez
Kim Director
James Ransone
Bernie Rachelle
Peter Gerety
Victor Colicchio
Cassandra Freeman
Peter Frechette
Gerry Vichi
Detective Keith Frazier
Dalton Russell
Madeline White
Arthur Case
Captain John Darius
Detective Bill Mitchell
Captain Coughlin
Sergeant Collins
Peter Hammond
Herman Gluck
Inside Man movie poster
Clive Owen as Dalton Russell from Inside ManThe title of the movie is Inside Man, well, that should tell you something. To director Spike Lee's and the screenwriter's credit, I didn't fully understand until after the bank robbery. However, I figured this out before the cops. What does that tell you? Two and a half stars!

Inside Man starts with a bang. Bank robber Russell Duncan, his back to a concrete wall, introduces himself. "My name is Dalton Russell. Pay close attention as I do not repeat myself." Well, actually, he does, but this is for the benefit of those in the audience who don't pay attention. Russell has just masterminded the perfect robbery. He has thought out every single contingency. So why is he narrating his tale with his back to a cinder block concrete wall talking about prison and how things are not as they appear? The answer is in the titie. Foreshadowing? No, ya think!

This is an interesting beginning. Unfortunately, Spike Lee cannot maintain the level of suspense and interest this openning suggests. Denzel Washington is the star of the movie, but parallels to John Cusack movies are evident. Washington is the sole star of the movie. The other characters are secondary, even Clive Owen. With his opening remarks, one would think this movie revolved around Russell. In order for a mystery to enfold, it must be approaced from an outsider to help engage the audience. In some movies, Raymond Chandler's novels turned into movies, this tactic works. Here, it is Washington all the time. This becomes a bit tedious, despite Washington's acting abilities. Spike Lee takes the blame here as Detective Keith Frasier is not a very interesting person. He has his own personal problems but they don't become a major factor in the story. The main problem with Inside Man is that the back story is way too subtle.

Denzel Washington and Chiwetel Ejiofor from Inside ManRussell maintains that he has masterminded and perpetuated the perfect crime. The early suspense of the movie comes in one simple question: if Russell is so confident in his plan, why is he talking about being in a prison. The cat-and-mouse game is on from the onset. Suspense is generated in wondering how Russell screwed up to end up in prison. Or, as he also states, sometimes a prison is not always a prison. Things are not always as the appear.

Inside Man begins with a classic example of how to start the perfect crime. But things go seriously wrong when a patrol officer discovers smoke coming from inside the locked doors to the bank. The officer calls in the crime and from the get go, Russell's plan takes a left turn... or does it? When the entire New York police mobilize around the bank, not to mention the press corps, the first thought is: how did Russell's plan go so horribly wrong so quickly. Russell counters by dressing all of his hostages in the same dress as his gang. Clearly, Russell has planned on this contingency. Or, is this actually a part of his plan? Intrigue abounds early on.

What started as an intriguing cat-and-mouse game, suddenly takes a turn for the worse. Bank owner Arthur Case is more concerned with what the bank contains rather than what the bank robbers steal. Case hires Madeline White to negotiate for his interests. Case doesn't care about the money, all he wants to do is protect a secret. Obviously, this causes friction between chief negotiator Frazier and the mysterious White, smarmily played by Foster, rather annoying to put a fine point on it. Her incessant smiling would cause Moe Howard to smack her across the kisser. To really confuse the issue, Case's secret is exactly what Russell came to steal. Here is the crucial plot twist where Inside Man fails: How does Russell get his information, not only on the bank's layout, but what the bank contains? Why does he steal only from Case? Is Russell a gentleman bandit? Questions. Questions. None of them answered. The movie has a promising start, the conclusion is left wanting.

Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer in Inside ManThe final resolution: There is no final resolution. Hints of Detective Frazier being on the take end as they began, just hints. Case's secrets remain secrets. Negotiator White has accomplished her goal of keeping the secrets as secrets. Frazier begins a new investigation. He is now more concerned with the stolen secrets than apprehending bank robber Russell. Russell does exactly what he said he would do. He walks out of the bank exactly when he said he would, when he is good and ready, and he answers the question inherent in the title. Sometimes things are exactly as they appear. Everyone in the movie is satisfied at the conclusion. Everyone except the audience.