Director: Spike Lee

Screenplay: Russell Gewirtz

Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer

Color, approx 129 Minutes
MPAA Classification: R

Genre: Mystery, Crime, Thriller, Caper

Reviewed by Jim Lewis

"Everybody down!" The bank heist begins the way cinematic robberies do, shouting and chaos. The first few minutes of the robbery are familiar, the situation looks pretty doomed. When the obligatory policeman comes to the locked door, a robber greets him with a handgun and tells him they have the bank, don’t come in. The NYPD sergeant calls for all possible resources and in minutes the place is surrounded and we wonder "Where is the strategy?"

Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), the mastermind, is a perfectionist. He and some colleagues have become privy to a target bank job too incredible to pass up. He believes he has every eventuality covered. He may be right.

Soon, distinctive elements of the plan start to confound us. Coveralls for all customers and employees in the bank, masks and blindfolds, hostages divided between different rooms, what the Hell is going on? Cellophane wrapped blocks of money being used for stools. Inspector Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is awaiting clearance from an investigation into allegations he helped himself to evidence money. He gets the call to be hostage negotiator. Madeleine White (Jodie Foster) is the most connected, discrete, hider of indiscretions of the Rich and Famous. (We would never have heard of Vice President Cheney’s shooting incident if she had owned the ranch.) The mayor introduces Ms. White to Inspector Frazier. It seems there will be pressure to make this incident disappear into a cloud of smoke.

As good as the movie is, the cunning plan is so original, I was too baffled to stay on the edge of my seat. There is a lull two-thirds of the way through, and a feeling that a second story is beginning. That momentary lack of sure-footedness made me wonder where we were headed. The story got back on track for me and proceeded to its interesting conclusion.

It was a very enjoyable film, and I’m pretty sure you won’t figure out what they’re doing.

Grist for post-movie chat over coffee:

Did the police use all the resources available?
Will Frazier chill?
What kind of money do you think Ms. White commands?

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