Inside Man
2006
Dispatched to the scene of a bank robbery, detective Keith Frazier must match wits with a cunning thief who's always one step ahead of the cops. When a loose-cannon negotiator is called on for help, the unstable situation spins out of control.

Scott Hardie: “It was ok.”

Like slathering on cologne after skipping a shower, all the flashy style and casual intelligence Spike Lee can bring to this picture only mask the truly dumb script that it started with. The script is so well-versed in heist genre history that it names its own predecessors in dialogue, but the characters still make banal, idiotic mistakes because the plot requires them to, keeping them three steps behind the audience at all times. Denzel Washington's detective is so bumbling that the filmmakers seem to have added as an afterthought a scene mentioning that this is literally his first assignment with hostages. He's not just out of his league with the villains; he doesn't belong beside his fellow officers. Who wants to watch Forrest Gump play chess against Garry Kasparov and be asked to root for Gump?

But of course, smarts aren't everything in a movie, and there's enough breezy style and raw tension in various scenes in the film to make it plenty enjoyable. The heist itself is impressive, seemingly predictable but suddenly surprising, and thrilling in its audacity. The best moments are the quiet ones, where the cops chit-chat and Washington talks face-to-face with the heist mastermind. Jodie Foster may seem bored, but she brings sharp individuality to a character who deserves more attention. It's a fun film, just not as smart as the people making it or the people watching it.

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