The Barenaked Archives – Inside Man

From 2003 up until 2007, I was lucky enough to have “movie reviewer” as my job description. As such, I’ve built up a *lot* of reviews for just about every movie that came out during those years, as well as reviews of classic movies.

The Barenaked Archives are reviews that I did for two previous websites. Sadly, they are both gone, so this is now the only place online you can see these old columns.

Thick as Thieves

Inside Man posterI’m a sucker for heist movies. I’m not ashamed to admit it. If there’s a band of lovable rogues pulling a con and outsmarting the police and/or an even worse criminal, I’m there.

Inside Man was not about a band of lovable rogues, but a band of frighteningly professional thieves who looked quite capable of carrying out every threat they made. And from the trailers, I couldn’t tell if we’d be rooting for the thieves to make it out of the bank, or for the police to take them out.

Plus, the March release date had me raising an eyebrow. Movies coming out now aren’t necessarily bad, but they’re usually not good.

Surprisingly, Inside Man turned out to be not just good, but a solid, even gripping, heist flick. It’s not exactly reinventing the wheel, but with a fantastic cast (Denzel Washington, Jodie Foster, Clive Owen, Christopher Plummer, Willem Dafoe, and Chiwetel Ejiofor) and an engaging story, it makes a very enjoyable two hours at the movies.

Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) and his cronies knock over a bank in New York City and it quickly turns into a hostage situation. Outside, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) is attempting to defuse the situation, but there’s something fishy going on, as Russell is always just one step ahead and seems to know exactly what the police are going to do before they do it.

It doesn’t take long for them to establish that this may not be your typical bank robbery, as apparently the bank’s CEO (Christopher Plummer) has something in a safety deposit box that’s pretty important, and he’s got a vested interest in making sure it gets out of the bank safely. To that end, he employs Madeliene White (Jodie Foster), a woman willing to walk over anyone to do her job.

Frazier is dealing with a whole slew of personal and professional problems, from his girlfriend pressuring marriage, to a large sum of money from another bust that has mysteriously vanished and been pinned on him. It’s just enough so that we get the sense this is a normal working-class guy, not some supercop. He is smart, though, enough so that he’s a threat to the thieves.

Jodie Foster’s Madeliene is, for lack of a better phrase, a conniving bitch, and boy, is she good at it. She walks into every scene like she owns it, wearing an “I know something you don’t know” smirk and the arrogant attitude that belongs to people who are used to getting their way. She’s a free radical thrown into the potentially volatile situation at the bank, and it’s almost unfortunate that her exit came about as quickly as it did. It’s necessary, but still unfortunate.

This story has enough twists to keep people who like to figure out where the next twist is coming from (like me) guessing, but not so many that it feels contrived, like the writers were grasping at straws in some desperate attempt to keep the audience on its toes. The ending could’ve been served better by being a little tighter, though. They had just a few too many scenes showing what happened after the robbery.

If you’re a fan of heist movies or crime capers, Inside Man should be your film of choice this weekend. Just…don’t think too much about the title.

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