Inside Man (2006)

Rating: B-

Dir: Spike Lee
Star: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer

This thriller is like a gourmet meal with lukewarm custard for dessert. The first two hours are crisply-written and delivered with the quality performances you’d expect from the cast. However, it’s perhaps too well put-together; you expect something monumental to happen at the end – and it doesn’t. On the Richter Scale of climactic finishes, this barely rattles the ornaments on the shelf, when you want it to turn the world upside-down. Dalton Russell (Owen) takes hostages inside a bank, and Detective Frazier (Washington) is in charge outside – he soon discovers that this is no ordinary bank-job gone wrong. Especially when the bank’s fixer (Foster) shows up, on a mission to recover the contents of one safety-deposit box, by any means necessary.

Owen and Washington are among the best actors their respective countries have produced, and are as reliable as ever, demanding and holding your attention every time they are on screen. Do have to wonder about the point of Foster’s character, who seems little more than an excuse to shoehorn another star in there. There are odd moments of humour dropped in, and even social satire – hey, it’s a Spike Lee “joint” after all – at least, if a Kill Dat Nigga videogame counts. The pieces are moved with some dexterity around the chessboard, and you prepare for the endgame that will surely be an all-time class… What? That’s it? Okay, it’s not perhaps a bad ending, in the sense rookie scripter Russell Gewirtz doesn’t cheat, or anything like that. However, it’s a three-star way to finish out, what could conceivably have been a five-star film.