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Inside Man

By Al Shipley | Posted 3/29/2006

Like 25th Hour, Inside Man finds Spike Lee stepping out of his comfort zone to team with a separate screenwriter—this time newcomer Russell Gewirtz—for a well-crafted thriller. Still, Lee imprints each scene with a comedic flourish or commentary on race relations (here dealing subtly with post-Sept. 11 anti-Arab paranoia) to remind you who’s behind the camera. This is a heist flick so aware of its own genre that detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) shouts, “You saw Dog Day Afternoon,” to Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), the mastermind behind the Manhattan bank robbery that Frazier knows is too clever to make the mistakes Russell appears to be making. Lee takes his time letting Frazier, and the audience, figure out what’s really going on, following the action closely even when it leads to a dead end, like the entertaining wild goose chase for an Albanian translator that results in Frazier muttering, “Last time I got jerked that good it cost me $5.” Washington quietly owns the picture even while his character is being outsmarted, but it’s the sheer creativity of the plot twists that makes Inside Man good enough to perhaps become a knowing allusion in future heist movies.

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