Norton, who in the past has been able to swell himself up into the outlines of a muscle-bound neo-Nazi, or shrink himself to the dimensions of a self-help junkie, is utterly defeated here by a character with no character. The movie is told largely in flashback (how Monty got his dog, how he met his girlfriend, how he met his downfall), but we never really get inside Monty's head, and we're never given a reason to want to. There's no compelling story here, as the movie listlessly flits from one loosely connected set piece to another; instead, Lee and screenwriter David Benioff, who adapted the script from his novel, fill the movie with a lot of gallingly ham-fisted tributes to 9/11. In one scene, two characters talk endlessly in front of a window overlooking the excavation of the World Trade Center's twin towers. At the end of this interminable back and forth, the camera zooms ominously into the wound as Terence Blanchard's score becomes more and more histrionic. The horror you feel is not the one Lee intends; the artless and off-putting moment provides a perfect example of why creative folk should put time between a life-shattering event and commenting on it. Spewing one's guts may be cathartic, but it's not automatically art. Elsewhere, the director shamelessly rips himself off, having Monty go off on a rant ("Fuck the Korean merchants, fuck the Russian mobsters, fuck the Dominicans, who make the Puerto Ricans look good . . .") that is a weak paraphrasing of a similar bit from Do the Right Thing. Director of photography Rodrigo Prieto (AmoresPerros) gives the film a grittily poetic look that flatters both quiet, brownstone-lined neighborhoods and blue-tinged, hip-hop-scored nightclubs. But Prieto's visual flair can't mask the tedium of sitting through the film or the fact that, in making The 25th Hour, Spike Lee brought all his trademark hard sell but none of his passion or purpose.
ANTWONE FISHER was directed by DENZEL WASHINGTON; written by ANTWONE FISHER; and produced by TODD BLACK, RANDA HAINES and WASHINGTON. THE 25TH HOUR was directed by SPIKE LEE; written by DAVID BENIOFF (based on his novel); and produced by TOBEY MAGUIRE, JULIA CHASMAN, JON KILIK and LEE. CHECK MOVIE GUIDE THROUGH THE HOLIDAYS FOR SHOW TIMES.