Four people dressed in painters' outfits march into the busy lobby of Manhattan Trust, a cornerstone Wall Street Branch of a worldwide financial institution. Within seconds, the costumed robbers place the bank under a surgically planned siege, and the 50 patrons and staff become unwitting pawns in an airtight heist. NYPD hostage negotiators Detectives Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor) are dispatched to the scene with orders to establish contact with the heist's ringleader, Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), and ensure safe release of the hostages. Working alongside Emergency Services Unit (ESU) Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe), all are hopeful that the situation can be peacefully diffused and that control of the bank and release of those inside can be secured in short order. But Russell proves an unexpectedly canny opponent--clever, calm and totally in command--a puppet master with a meticulous plan to disorient and confuse not only the hostages, but also the authorities. Outside, the crowd of New Yorkers grows as the situation becomes increasingly intense tense, with Frazier's superiors becoming more concerned about his ability to keep the standoff from spiraling out of control. The robbers appear to consistently be one step ahead of the police, outwitting Frazier and Mitchell at every turn. Frazier's suspicions that more is at work than anyone perceives are justified with the entry of Madeline White (Jodie Foster), a power player with shadowy objectives, who requests a private meeting with Russell. The chairman of the bank's board of directors, controlling entrepreneur Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), is also uniquely interested in the moment-to-moment happenings inside the branch. But just what are the robbers after? Why has nothing worked to alleviate the standoff, which stretches on hour after hour? Frazier is convinced that invisible strings are being pulled and secret negotiations are taking place as the powder keg situation grows more unstable by the moment.
Being a huge and long-time fan of Denzel Washington's, as well as of Jodie Foster and Clive Owen, "Inside Man" sounded like the perfect kinda movie to watch them all work together and see what they could do. Directed by Spike Lee, this film is an interesting one where not everything is what you'd obviously expect. Detective Frazier is in the hot seat for something he claims he didn't do, yet in the meantime, he's a fill-in negotiator for the "usual guy" who happens to be on vacation. Not one to pass up this golden opportunity, suave and swanky Frazier drags his partner along for the unpredictable ride, thinking he knows the drill, having studied the hostage handbook. But does he, really? The robbers, lead by Russell, keep managing to do the unexpected, making the detectives wonder just who is in charge and what it is they're after.
Adding to the confusion is overly solicitious chairman Case and the pacifying fixer White, who both seem to have their own agenda regarding the robbery and the final outcome, and Frazier is trying to figure out just who the players in this heist really are, and what is the ultimate prize. Case immediately raises eyebrows when he agrees to the outrageous and impossible demands immediately without blinking an eye - what exactly is his stake in all this? And White, who smoothly gets things done for those who have the right price, manages to secure herself a position front and center in the negotiations, leaving the detectives scratching their heads at being the only ones not knowing what is really going down.
This film is a great popcorn movie, one that effortlessly gets you wondering what exactly it is that's going on, and who are the good guys anyway? Denzel is a smooth operator in his suit and hat, confident he knows what he's doing until things start going horribly wrong. Jodie Foster is almost unlikable as someone who makes problems go away, regardless of how unmentionable they are, yet her engaging smile and confidence had me admiring her moxie. She's no dummy, and easily holds her own with the big boys. Clive Owen, the coldly seductive gang leader, has his own agenda, one he's not willing to stray from, and hardly breaks a sweat, even when his cover is almost blown in an unpredictable struggle. Secrets are revealed, or are they?
The ending may or may not what you'd expect, but it's not a film of revelations but rather more a clever ditty that sticks in your head for awhile before it vanishes into the land of good but forgotten movies. Enjoyable to spend a few hours getting lost in, though probably not one for the keeper shelf, no matter how much I enjoyed it. Can't help it; my Denzel is in it, so it's almost always a given that I'll like it. For this one, I have to say he didn't make me cry this time, which he usually does, but in a good way. No, this film is not that intense, or emotionally draining. But it's a fun film, with the colorful characters that give it a NYC flavor, and the message that a lot of times it's not just the lowlifes that give off a rotten smell, but also the top of the food chain. Huh. No surprise there.