Reviewed by

Bud Carlson

Inside Man is like a puzzle of interlocking pieces, in which no piece is what it seems to be. The movie is about the lure of power, the ugliness of greed, and the mystery of the perfect robbery that leaves no tracks. It is a skillfully written and tightly directed thriller, with powerhouse actors playing tough New Yorkers who must outwit one another in order to protect competing interests. It is a story in which no detail is unimportant and no clue is a throwaway. The key players collide in an episode that teases the audience with tricks of camera and twists of plot up to the very end.


Denzel Washington plays Keith Frazier, a police detective who must rise above a corruption scandal to handle a hostage negotiation / bank robbery situation at the Manhattan Trust Bank. Clive Owen is Dalton Russell, a brilliant criminal mind who upends what we think we know about bank robbery. Jody Foster plays Madeline White, a mysterious Manhattan power broker who gets accomplished exactly what her clients pay top dollar for, whatever that may be. The film is framed by Russell’s voice-over narration, which begins and ends the story. Addressing viewers directly, Russell states simply “Pay strict attention to what I say, because I choose my words carefully, and I never repeat myself”.  His words hold true throughout the movie, as we chase the various players across darkened rooms and corridors of power to see who will be scammed by whom, and who will wind up on top.  It’s a story of strategy, a three-way face-off between three of the best!

I have a confession to make, I love this type of movie. As I have written before, even some of the worst “perfect crime” or bank heist movies are more fun to me than are some of the better romantic comedies. That said, I thought Inside Man was a particularly good entry in this genre. It is a pleasant surprise to realize that the

multi-layered plot-driven screenplay, was written by a newcomer, Russell Gewirtz. With a superb cast and excellent direction (Spike Lee) and cinematography (Matthew Libatique), this is terrifically deceptive stuff that’s clever and dramatic, without resorting to silly or implausible tricks (I’m looking at you, Firewall!) With its marquee value, it’s likely to be a big draw, and Inside Man is wholly worthy for mainstream audiences.


Armstead’s Second:  When superb planning meets precision execution mixed with exceptional talent, the result is excellence.  Or it at least it should be.  Now don’t misunderstand me here, this is a really good movie.  The best one I’ve seen thus far this year.  A movie that forces you to listen to what’s being said, pay attention to the details, observe the characters actions.  A movie for grownups.  Plus it’s an original story not based on TV show, sequel, remake or rehash.  As Bud already mentioned, Washington, Owen, and Foster are at the top of their games and lest we forget Willem Dafoe and Chiwetal Ejiofor playing Denzel Washington’s partner.  With Spike Lee pulling the strings for his most commercial film yet, if you like movies, really like movies, then you better go see this one.  It’s just not a great movie, which is what I was expecting.  The ending was vague and seemed to have trouble wrapping itself up, as unfortunately, most movies seem to do nowadays.  I think Clive Owen is a spectacular actor, but not once in this movie did I buy him as a hardened criminal bank robber.  But then, neither did Keith Frazier (Washington) or Madeline White (Foster) so I may have to rethink that.  He just seemed to ‘nice’.  I’m not certain if the spliced in interview cutaways to the rescued hostages worked either.  It seemed to stem the flow of the film a bit.  But, again, this is a really good movie.  It’s just that I wanted to go to the moon, but it only took me among the clouds.


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