Saturday, June 17, 2006
The acting is great, and that is rare for a movie where they try to pack so many stars all into different roles, it usually just becomes a big star circus, but here they were very well cast, and despite their star marketing magnetism as the real reason for being booked, they actually fit their roles.
The colorfulness of Lee's NY people is the best part perhaps ("Besides, that's not where the real action is anyway. It's the stuff on the sidelines -- the character interaction, the flavorful New York setting -- that give "Inside Man" its true substance and subject matter."). And the plot sucks and doesn't at the same time.
First, as other reviewers noted, the following really ruins the movie:
That's the danger of making a thriller that aspires to something more than mere thrills.AND
The whole plot smells fishy. It's not that the movie is hiding something, but that when it's revealed, it's been left sitting too long at room temperature. "Inside Man" goes to much difficulty to arrive at too little.
I had this exact feeling, which was frustrating as hell. First because I hate to be suckered by movie previews. Secondly because I know most previews are designed to sucker you and so it is so unnerving when they actually do. But I saw the preview and I was curious. What could be inside the bank? Obviously several ideas immediately came to mind and one of the them was in the line of the real movie plot. It's Hollywood and don't they still love WWII? So something to do with something committed a long time ago, that had been kept a secret, or it's something very valuable, or very related to BIG crimes -nuclear, bio, trafficking, good versus evil apocalyptic wars, and all that- could possibly fill the answer gap.
So, as I walked out the cinema and was putting an effort in soothing my frustration with the retardedness of the plot and all its completely implausible twists and turns, one question did come up: is it true? Certainly the Swiss banks robbed Jews tremendously in various ways, ways which are still being fought over in courts today. But it's the Jewish question that intrigues. Knowing humanity as we all do, isn't this movie exactly what a non-Jewish guy at the right place and the right time in WWII would easily do? Make a fortune off the mega-rich Jews being sent off to death, and then, this Monsieur could very easily skip to America post-war and voilà, Mr. Smooth Millionaire founds a bank that grows and grows until he becomes just another icon of the American dream. This is the dream where little people gape but don't look into real dealings as long as the appearances are grand. And big players basically turn their eyes the other way so as not to upset the whole system. But a Jewish guy? It is much less likely. But still the question remains - is it true?
Aside from what we know of how Jewish communities are tight and stick together and are usually quite brandished from birth in that respect, it would have had to be an enormous exception. Of course the human race always has enormous exceptions, but exactly because they are so implausible they happen once in a very rare blue moon. And in toying with the possibility of this being true, could such a guy get away with it? I mean, it's not like the Nazis killed every Jew and every other financial dealer in Europe that could know who had money before the war - and who hadn't. Then again, if you are a financial whiz it probably is quite easy to hide enormous amounts of money and then launder it as you please. It's not the regulations that would put up obstacles to anyone, I just keep thinking about the community controls, knowledge people have about each other, you know? Could a clever guy pull it off? Not sure. Then again that's exactly the message in the film, the truth catches up to people. Actually the film is in lala-idealist-land saying the truth always catches up, yada yada. Most often it does not or we wouldn't have the barbaric world we live in - but did it catch up to someone real in this case?
I had been hoping the movie and all the bank robbery tactics along with the counter tactics by police would have been elaborated with more of a reality base - that would have been really interesting. But "Inside Man" also failed in this respect. The movie is a bunch of feel good fluff, and not extremely caricaturized characters, but enough to make a false portrayal of real people. Most characters hang in-between a caricature and a real human being - in a very irritating place. Given who the director is, big-black-tough but perfectly good police character kicks all the bad guys' behinds so easily and always with a snappy retort, always. Did I say always? Please... Owner/chairman of MEGA NY bank/financial empire just sits there whimpering and lets a poor, lacking in stature, two-bit black cop do as he pleases - when there was the heaviest-duty stuff at stake? In one word, NO. Not. Ever.
So that really ruins the movie. Then again it made me think of racism and culture and isn't this movie an idealized fairy tale that can only take place when serious changes have taken place in society regarding race relations? I mean, do you remember the roles Sidney Poitier was playing in 1950? Interesting, isn't it?
Movie critic Ebert wrote:
I once knew a man named Jean-Jacques de Mesterton, whose biography describes him as "a professional adventurer, political advisor, and international facilitator." You can Google him. I asked him what, exactly, he did. "If you have a problem," he said, "first, you call the police. Then you call the FBI. If you still have a problem, you call me." I guess Madeline White is supposed to be the Jean-Jacques of New York, but although she purses her lips, frowns, and won't take any nonsense, she's basically a red herring.
I didn't think so - I think she is exactly what Ebert described in the first place, a female Mesterton, and, yes those people exist, although, I would think most usually in the male form. I read some of the reviews of Mesterton's book on Amazon, kept wondering if they are just another suckering preview job or if his book is worth reading... and giving that curiosity usually wins out... :-)
Then the other irritating thing, that happens way too often in movies in general, is that the whole script is just a long list of snappy retorts from the "good guys" to the "bad guys," who have never anything to retort back. Just as in real life... (eyes roll).
And then on the serious side, I don't remember Denzel with such big teeth, did something happen there? What's those buck teeth I kept seeing? Is that the Denzel that is supposed to be a black version of a hunk? Jodie Foster on the other hand is perhaps the actress I've seen recently that is aging the best. And aging like that is rare, even in Hollywood.