Armed men hijack a New York City subway train, holding the passengers hostage in return for a ransom, and turning an ordinary day's work for dispatcher Walter Garber into a face-off with the mastermind behind the crime.
From a cell, a man tells us he has planned the perfect bank robbery; he invites us to watch. An efficient gang enters a Manhattan bank, locks the doors, and takes hostages. They work deliberately, without haste. Detective Frazier is assigned to negotiate, but half his mind is occupied with the corruption charges he is facing. The bank's president has something to protect in a safe deposit box, so he brings in Madaline, a high-power broker with a hidden agenda. With an army of police surrounding the bank, the thief, the cop, and the plutocrat's fixer enter high-stakes negotiations. Why are the robbers asking for a plane, if they are so competent and they know they won't get one? Why aren't they in more of a hurry? If the job's perfect, why is the thieves' leader in a cell? Written by
The interrogation scenes were mostly ad-libbed. See more »
Russell holds the older woman at gunpoint and threatens her because she won't take her clothes off. In the next shot, Russell is holding the gun at his side. See more »
My name is Dalton Russell. Pay strict attention to what I say because I choose my words carefully and I never repeat myself. I've told you my name: that's the Who. The Where could most readily be described as a prison cell. But there's a vast difference between being stuck in a tiny cell and being in prison. The What is easy: recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery. That's also the When. As for the Why: beyond the obvious financial motivation...
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At the beginning of the opening, instead of the regular "A Film by...." the title reads "A Spike Lee Joint" See more »
It's curious to see Spike Lee do a straight caper movie. The movie is absent Lee's usual politics, though there are occasional glimpses of his sensibilities. At one point a Sikh has his turban taken away and complains at ends how Sikhs are not Arabs and he's tired of getting harassed all the time.
Anyway, the cast is great - Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, and Christopher Plummer are all top-drawer actors. Willem Dafoe has a smaller part that doesn't use all of his talents, unfortunately. The clever twist the plot adds is that the bank robbers dress everybody up in the same masks and jump suits that they themselves are wearing. So if the police raid the bank, they'll have a difficult time figuring who the bad guys are. (This isn't a spoiler - it's in the trailers.) Clive Owen and the robbers are clearly up to something that becomes apparent during the course of the film. They are particularly interested in the safety deposit box of the bank CEO, played by Christopher Plummer. Jodie Foster is brought in by him to protect "his interests". Her existence is amusing in that it reveals a bit about what Spike Lee thinks the corridors of white power are like. (Here's a hint, Spike: rich white folks don't swear at each other quite as much as you make them do, and in particular the word used by the Mayor to describe Jodie Foster's character is way beyond the pale. A real woman with as much influence as her character had would retaliate massively after being so described. But Spike Lee has never quite managed to capture any female character correctly, dating all the way back to Nola Darling. I digress.) The good parts of the film involve the interactions between Washington and Owen. Also, the many small man-on-the-street conversations are great. This aspect of observing street life has always been one of Lee's strongest points.
It was interesting watching a Spike Lee caper film. I kinda like the idea. It's better than the formulaic caper films that are the rage, and features some of Lee's trademark shots, like when he puts an actor on a dolly to create non-walking walking movement. I recommend the film.
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