Ooh, "slumming" is a bit harsh, isn't it? Surely nothing that's considered slumming is worthy of calendar pick status—well, I agree. Yet frankly, some of the most entertaining films of the past several years have arrived as a result of a particular director stepping back from the more cerebral, political or message-heavy films that garnered them prominence and delivered so-called "popcorn" movies; as a result, most have been accused at one time or another of slumming. Never mind that said films are usually a damn sight better than most blockbusters—Ocean's Eleven, for example, is hardly the apex of Steven Soderbergh's career, but it's a blast. (We're choosing to ignore the fact that any subsequent crap sequels exist, mind you.) And earlier this year, Spike Lee made a giant leap away from his usual m.o. to deliver a crackin' thriller called Inside Man, out on DVD Tuesday.
A high-octane hostage drama, Inside Man is really far more simple that it seems on the outside; if you glom onto certain details early on in the picture, you can more or less follow where it's going to go straight on through to the fairly pat ending. What makes the picture work is the stylish, smart, assured direction throughout—loads of other filmmakers could have made this, but would they have made such a great-looking film as Lee and cinematographer Matthew Libatique?—and a trio of towering performances. Denzel Washington (as the lead detective on the case) and Jodie Foster (a mysterious negotiator sent in to protect a high-powered client's interests in the bank that's being ransacked) deliver in full on their reputations as heavy hitters, while Clive Owen's turn as the robbers' point man assures all those Closer accolades were no fluke. It's top-flight entertainment across the boards. The release includes a director's commentary, making-of featurette and more than 25 minutes of deleted scenes.
Also recommended this week: The Brak Show, Vol. 2; Brick; The Jayne Mansfield Collection; The Lost City; Toshiro Mifune: The Ultimate Collection; Tromeo & Juliet: Tenth Anniversary Edition; The Wire: Season 3.
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