Universal // 2006 // 129 Minutes // Rated R
Reviewed by Judge Eric Profancik (Retired) // May 29th, 2009
It looked like the perfect bank robbery. But you can't judge a crime by its cover.
I'm not one to visit Spike Lee's Joint all that often, but Inside Man has changed all that. Granted, I should like Spike more because I appreciate the messages in his films; but that's not why I enjoy this movie. His biggest box office success, Inside Man is a smart caper story; and I just love stories where the criminals are too smart and too clever.
Dalton Russell (Clive Owen, Shoot 'Em Up) has planned the perfect bank robbery. Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington, American Gangster) is the police negotiator called in to put an end to the crisis. Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe, Spider-Man) is in charge of the SWAT unit. Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer, Star Trek IV: The Undiscovered Country) owns the bank that is being robbed, and he fears that the crooks may be after something in his personal safety deposit box and not the money in the vault. Madeleine White (Jodie Foster, Candleshoe) is a fixer who is called in by Mr. Case to make sure his secret remains a secret.
Inside the bank, Dalton and his crew put their ingenious plan into action. It's a plan that is so well-constructed that the police won't have any idea who the robbers are.
I love heist or con game films where you have "criminals" that are so smart that they can plan for every contingency. Some of my recent favorites are Ocean's 11, The Good Thief, and Confidence. Let me add Inside Man to that list. I really love this film. Not only is there a wickedly clever plan unfolding, but you also get great performances from the key actors, and an excellent piece of celluloid from Spike Lee (Malcolm X). I watch this movie every few months just for the sheer pleasure of the movie. In my book, that's what movies are for: enjoyment. I'm not looking for a message, I'm looking to be lost in a story that will make me smile or take my breath away with quality explosions. Not that there's anything wrong with message movies, and we'll come back to that, as this is a Spike Lee Joint.
But it's not just the masterful plotting that thrills me here; it's also some great acting. Inside Man made me stand up and take notice of Clive Owen. I had largely ignored his other movies -- Can you blame me, King Arthur? -- but I've since gone back and played catch up with his work. I even blindly bought Shoot 'Em Up just for Clive, and I really enjoy the stupidity of that one. In this movie, though we rarely see his face, he gives an exquisitely cool and precise performance. He's awesome. Along the same lines, I've never been a big Denzel Washington fan, but I really enjoyed the nuances and the way he got into the Frazier character. There are times when he does the simplest things and exhibits such honest emotions that my overall appreciation for him and his general body of work went up a few notches. Lastly I want to give mention to Jodie Foster. I know it's not possible, but I've always had a "crush" on her. As a young boy, I remember watching her movies and feeling my first "puppy love." That's faded over the years, but in this movie that old lust came barreling to the foreground. Now while I certainly enjoyed Jodie's character in Inside Man -- the aloof, calculating, and amoral fixer -- I couldn't help but be more drawn in by how beautiful she looks. All glossed and glammed up, showing off some lovely leg, I was mesmerized by her beauty.
That's enough of the beauty and now onto the subtext. It's a Spike Lee film so there has to be a point; that's his specialty. Unlike most of his other films, the message this time is greatly subdued. Of course he hits on the race issue, but this time it's more about terrorism. In the wake of 9/11, this movie set in New York, adjacent to Wall Street (and thus not all that far from Ground Zero) delicately takes on the lingering issue of terrorism and how it infiltrates all facets of today's society. It's handled gently and deftly, without throwing anything overt in your face. I appreciate that, as I never like anything shoved in my face -- especially just when I'm out for a wee spot of entertainment.
It was discovered during pre-release reviews that Inside Man contained a defect in the main English audio track. Universal took immediate action and delayed the street date by one week to correct the issue. My review has been updated upon release of the fixed disc. To distinguish the two releases, Universal changed the color of the background on the back disc sleeve to red from black. So if you see or bought a copy of the movie and the back is black, return it for a red copy.
Starting with the video transfer we have an excellent 2.35:1 1080p print with no problems to the average viewer's eye. Colors sparkle, blacks are deep and inky, and contrast and detail is excellent. The depth of realism is top-notch, and simply, there isn't a problem with the video.
The new English DTS-HD Audio mix fixes the earlier problem wherein at approximately the 93-minute mark the rear right channel completely drops out. Now we have a track with crystal clear dialogue, rich bass, and excellent use of the surrounds, putting you in the middle of all the action. There are no flaws in the presentation, immersing you in the action. It's a top-notch track that is demo worthy for the quiet moments through to the climactic ending.
For the bonus features, they are a direct copy of what was released on the DVD and nothing else. Shame on you, again, Universal, there should always be additional content with each new release. Nonetheless, here's what you get:
* Commentary by Spike Lee: Actually my first listen to the track, and I enjoyed it. He shares a few stories, but he always seems to get lost in the technical side of the picture. That was fine, and it was interesting to find out how much he loves the crane shots.
* Deleted Scenes (24:39): The first 17 minutes and 20 seconds are dedicated to expanding the post-robbery interviews. Mildly interesting but it's a bit on the long side. The other stuff mostly flies by including 4 minutes of faux news footage. All were good cuts.
* "The Making of Inside Man" (10:20): A decent but typically shallow overview of some of the background on the movie.
* "Number 4" (10:08): Denzel and Spike sit down and talk about the four movies they have made together, with most of the conversation focusing on Malcolm X.
* BD-Live: When I went online, I saw no specific bonus material for Inside Man, just a bunch of various promotional stuff for other movies, discs, and shows.
The disc also allows you to create "My Scenes," where you can bookmark favorite moments from the movie and play them at your convenience. So if the Blu-ray can do that...
...then why can't it remember where I left off? Why did we lose the resume feature? I know that's more of a player problem than a disc problem, but it is annoying. Even more annoying are the Universal menus. First, every single time you start up, it asks you to pick a language. (Why can't it remember that?) Then the main menu comes with those annoying beeping sounds, which you can turn off but are inconveniently buried beneath all the audio and subtitle options. (And, again, it doesn't remember if you've turned them off.) Lastly, the pop-up menu only works during the movie and not during any of the bonus features. It's a poorly crafted interface, detracting from the simple enjoyment of sitting down and watching the movie.
It's a very simple summation: I love this movie and highly recommend it. Though I'm beginning to despise the double-dip upgrades that add no new bonus material, it's had to not want to upgrade with the step up in quality. When you do purchase this disc, please make sure you have the red copy.
Inside Man is hereby found not guilty of robbing the bank. I couldn't find any robbers, could you?
Review content copyright © 2009 Eric Profancik; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2013 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
* 2.35:1 Non-Anamorphic (1080p)
* DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio (English)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (French)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (German)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Italian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Japanese)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish, Castilian)
* DTS 5.1 Surround (Spanish, LA)
* English (SDH)
* Spanish (Castilian)
* Spanish (LA)
Running Time: 129 Minutes
Release Year: 2006
MPAA Rating: Rated R
* Deleted Scenes
* Official Site