| The Red Right Hand
First time writer, Russell Gewirtz, has created something distinctive; an intelligent heist film. I know you're about to reel off twenty titles that you think are exceptional (Dog Day Afternoon and The Negotiator come to mind) but I'm not trying to challenge those films in any way. The notion of a smart larceny pic is nothing unique but the outstanding factor of this film is that it has been written by a perspicacious man, with a criminal motive that makes you think and question the actual robbery - it's not often major motion picture stars are involved in a big-budget film that challenges you to think, debate and question your moral standings.... except Crash. Alright, maybe I hyped that up a little too much. Allow me to return to my former glory, as I tear this film limb-from-limb; dissecting the plot, removing every major flaw and holding it up for all to see. Spike Lee is one of those odd directors that I admire and respect but can't get along with the bulk of his work. The films in question being, She Hate Me, Jim Brown All American, School Daze, Girl 6; the list goes on. I can't really relate to half of them but that's just a little quibble, the main grumble I have is that so many of his films start out really well and end in a sloppy mess. With that in mind I don't mind telling you that Lee is also responsible for exceptional works such as, 25th Hour, 4 Little Girls and Jungle Fever.
The film opens with a vanilla monologue by Dalton Russell [Owen], explaining that he chooses his words very carefully. He outlines the Who, What, Where, When, Why & How of his plan to rob a Wall Street bank. Everything sets into motion fairly quickly and within the first ten minutes the bank is locked down - which is a shame because very little actually happens for the next hour. Four characters, disguised as painters, all wearing caps, masks, overalls and sunglasses enter the bank and knock out the cameras before knocking out the security guards. Guns are pulled and demands made. A nearby policeman is notified of smoke coming from the bank, as he approaches the locked doors, Russell appears, holds a gun to him and says in a Central European accent that they have hostages, if any cops come near the door, they will start killing them one-by-one. Whilst the police are busy setting up road blocks (*insert random sarky comment about the NYPD looking too organised*), the hostages are taken to the lower levels of the bank, ordered to strip down to their underwear [Please Note: At this point the film takes an unrealistic turn, as all the actors and actresses are svelte and busty] and re-dressed in overalls similar to the bank robbers. Detective Frazier [Washington] and his partner, Mitchell [Ejiofer] are assigned to the case; Frazier, looking for a clean and easy situation as he's already on thin ice from a previous assignment, is then introduced to Captain Darius [Dafoe] who explains that the streets are locked down, all exits covered, sewers are under surveillance and snipers in place.
Unfortunately, for every commendable aspect there is a cheesy clichéd moment that counters it. I'm not sure whether it's Lee's Proud To Be American directing style but certain moments are played without any conceivable realism that you can't help but roll your eyes and curse the name of such an amateur director. The first example is the overview of the bank floor, showing every sort of racial stereotype in New York - namely just to say that everyone is affected by crime, blah blah - just to list a few:
- Geeky Asian
- Big breasted, loud-mouthed Italian woman
- Stubborn old lady
- Small African American child who thinks he's a gangsta
- Haggling old Jewish man
- Sikh teller; mistaken for an 'Arab' therefore terrorist
But there are no Mexicans, the Americans don't really care about them and can see no real reason why there would be one in a New York bank. Having said that, most of the characters are played well. Especially the cold, calculating Clive Owen, leaking brief and random moments of altruism.
The plot twists are so many that to give away one would send me spewing forth every little detail and element, ruining the film for most. So you'll have to forgive me. The best I can offer is that a bank robbery turns into a hostage situation, then outside forces (above the law) become involved, a secret is uncovered and the audience is then treated to twenty more minutes of wrapping up loose ends - long after the film is actually over. There is one thing I wanted to point out, without giving away too much; it's difficult to like any of the characters as all but the most unlikely are self-seeking. No one is really trying to help anyone, bar themselves; the only one who's interested in helping others is the bloody bank robber! I doubt this film is going to be listed as the best heist film of all time but it is most definitely worth a watch.
31st March 2006
The Scene To Look Out For:
Sitting in the vault, stacked with bound notes, Russell has a conversation with [I tried so hard to remember/find out the kid's name but I can't, sorry] that child .....point being he's playing on his PSP. Russell takes a look as he hands the boy a slice of pizza. The game is similar to Grand Theft Auto, but to the extremes, drive-by shootings glamorised to the crescendo of a grenade stuffed into a young black man's mouth before his head blows up. The scene simply ends with Russell putting down the game and saying, 'Finish your slice, I'll take you back to your Father. Think I should have a word with him about that game.' Typical Spike Lee, always trying to say something.
Clive Owen. Always in control, calm, collected and unwavering; never losing his cool, constantly focused on his objectives. The ultimate bad guy. I used to really hate this man (don't believe me? Read my review for Closer), I didn't see the potential. but recently he is proving more and more that he can handle himself well on screen.
"Which weighs more? All the trains that run through Grand Central Station or the cut down trees to make dollar bills? Ring me back when you have an answer"
In A Few Words:
"Rather respectable but too many unnecessary moments ruin what, at heart, is a fairly decent heist flick"