Inside Man

Cover Art and Menu: 2/10
Cover art = Boring. Menu = Functional. I want to have more interesting things to say about the covers of movies I actually like, but jiminy-Christmas, they make it difficult. You can see the cover, you know what it is. Big stars’ faces, scenes from the movie, and the title, it’s generic and disappointing. The menu has nothing to brag about. It’s just some navigation and images from the film, although they do make the effort to make it look like security camera images, so that’s something. I would delete this section of my reviews, but then once in a while we come across a cover and menu that really stand out, so in between those gems you will just have to read me rephrasing “this cover is boring” in as many ways as I can. Enjoy.

Features: 7/10

  • 25 Minutes Of Deleted Scenes – This has got to be the best collection of deleted scenes I have seen on a DVD, or that I can remember anyway. After about 2 minutes you feel like you are back in watching the movie because it’s edited and finished, unlike a lot of deleted scenes you might find laying around on discs these days. I actually forgot I was watching deleted scenes, I’ll admit it. The bulk of the scenes are leftovers from scenes of possible suspects/victims of the bank heist that takes place in the story. Spike Lee must have done a full on interview, or interrogation rather, of each character just to have tons of footage when it came time to put the whole thing together. Washington and Ejiofor are the detectives doing the questioning and with these deleted scenes you get to see so much more of their performances it well worth watching. You get more involved in the story after watching these deleted scenes, so that’s a huge bonus for a DVD to offer.
  • Number 4 From Mo Better Blues To Malcolm X Featurette – This is a segment of a discussion between Washington and Lee about their history together, the movies they have made in their careers, and their place, along with Hollywood in the history of African Americans in the film industry. It’s like watching two old men chat about a long long life with their stories
  • Spike Lee Commentary – Mr. Lee has the gift of gab, so a commentary by him is like taking a film making class with the cool professor on campus. He’s light hearted sometimes but very serious about the process of making his movies as well as the messages he wants to deliver to the world.
  • The Making Of Inside Man – We get to see some behind the scenes moments with director Spike Lee and the cast. They include some of the read through that happens before any movie (I assume) which is cool to see. That’s usually a closed door kind of thing for film making. This is a decent extra, something to model other “making of” extras after, since it’s not too short and not overly produced like a lot of made-for-TV promotional extras.

The Movie: 8/10
Clive Owen, Denzel Washington, Chiwetel Ejiofor, and a side order of Jodie Foster. That ain’t a bad line up for a Spike Lee flick. The trailers for Inside Man makes it look like some kind of action heist movie with that certain testosterone quality. That’s not exactly what you are in for when you sit down to watch the whole thing unfold. It is a heist. There is some action. There is some testosterone floating around, but not in the Bruce Willis Die Hard style. It’s more a game of how to out think one another.

A bank is taken over by a group posing as painters. They hint at violence and use a lot of intimidating methods to get their hostages under control. From the start we are introduced to the mastermind of the whole operation, a savvy cocky dude who gives us a little intro speech about his perfect plan and makes sure we know he’s quite intelligent. Without this one on one introduction you wouldn’t have him swimming around in your head while you watch the action unfold.

As the hostages are tormented, undressed, redressed, and left with a general feeling of disorientation, we are teased with the idea that we will ultimately not know who’s who. The hostages are all given the same masks as the “robbers”. We only see the faces of the hostages in the beginning, but as things go down, our own perception of who’s in on the heist is blurred.

Washington plays a hostage negotiator on the scene who has to figure out how to talk the man in charge of the plan to essentially give up. We all know how that goes, right? It wouldn’t be a very long movie if the bad guy could be talked out of his devilish plot.

Between Washington’s character’s stoic but somewhat playful approach to things, and Owen’s uncompromising arrogance and assuredness that he’s going to end up the victor, we get a battle that only once gets physical between the two. The villainous bank robber dude didn’t expect to be faced down with someone as smart as himself, but then again, he didn’t plan on little Jodie Foster to come into his game either.

Foster plays a woman who does what we middle class people have no use for. She moves around amongst the rich and the powerful making bad things they do go away. She has favors to cash in with people like the Mayor and other top end dudes, so this time around she’s working for the guy who owns the whole bank. He has something important in a safety deposit box that he doesn’t want exposed.

Foster then wiggles her way into the bank to face down her masked adversary. She plays it tough but not female cocky, if you get my drift. I like her performance and her character. She’s unapologetic and unsympathetic, that’s cool. She gets called a rather controversial name, which I will refrain from repeating here. Just keep in mind it’s Spike Lee and he’s not afraid of all those words we like to use to hurt and upset each other with.

Lee is still using a lot of his film making tricks to jazz things up visually, but for the most part this is a straight forward story with a straight forward style. The dialogue is, as expected, sharp and sometimes abrasive, but that’s all in the ears of the listener I suppose. It’s not pound-you-over-the-head political, but it’s got a message, as do all Spike Lee movies. I don’t mind. It’s a good story, with a fantastic cast and top quality director. There’s some humor that makes every character totally believable and relatable in some way, while there are moments of tension that keep the intensity at a level that makes it more interesting.

I really enjoyed it, but it misses that big WOW thing I am always looking for. It might come in a lame comedy or an epic love story, or even a rinky dink cheapo flick, but until I get that zing again, even good movies like Inside Man won’t push my scoring button to the top.

Value: 5/10
While Inside Man is an excellent movie, and the extras are better than average, I still don’t like the over $20 price tag. It’s not a movie I will probably watch again, at least for a long time. It didn’t have that “Wow I have to have that” thing I get from a few films. It’s a fantastic rental and when it comes down in price in a few months hopefully, that might be the time to add it to your collection. If you are a Spike Lee fan, you probably already own it, so I don’t need to tell you about the value. Lee in the director seat probably inspires some people to purchase first and ask questions later. I’m not one of those people, in fact, I’m not that devoted to any particular director, actor, or other film maker person. Maybe someday I’ll be swept away by someone and throw my cheapness to the wind and buy their whole collection. Until then I’ll have to be one of those non-committal film fans. (Now when can I get my next season of M*A*S*H on DVD?? I’ve gotta have’em all!)

Overall Score 7/10