Better late than no TicketStub:

* Inside Man -- Depending on your perspective, Spike Lee has finally either sold out or grown up by making this star-studded, well-balanced heist movie. It's no glitzy romp, a la Ocean's Eleven, nor is it too "mature" and dull, like The Interpreter. Lee strikes an appealing balance between gritty police procedure, perfectly tooled whodunit, and earthy New York character comedy -- it's sort of his version of Match Point, which makes sense since he's the black Woody Allen. As always, he peppers the film with self-referential visual puns (he places his director credit over a shot of the street signs at Broadway and Wall St. (the intersection of art and commerce?); later, pizzas are delivered in boxes from Sal's Pizzeria, the central setting of Do The Right Thing), and he unfortunately cannot resist some gratuitous T&A. But here his touch is light and confident -- he doesn't have to overdo it with such great actors and well-written material (by a debut screenwriter!) to work with. Denzel plays slightly against type as a wiseacre detective who's more bureaucrat than action hero, and his scenes with Jodie Foster snap with professionalism. Jodie makes a decent cutthroat bitch here, though she doesn't walk in stiletto heels very well, and is all the more convincing when her character starts to find her own gleeful amorality distasteful. The plot revolves around Clive Owen's mysterious mastermind bankrobber, who becomes a proletarian antihero by the end, and he fills that jumpsuit well. Reaching into his bag of jumpcuts, trolley shots, and other tricks only occasionally, Spike keeps the plot juggling along by flashing back and forth in time, keeping the audience guessing. Lee lavishes his supporting cast, and any movie that has Willem Dafoe as a tight-lipped NYPD sergeant is on more than solid ground. I found the political overtones intriguing -- it's hard to make an indictment of a misguided police state subtle, and of all people to manage it, Spike Lee?! But it works, and good on him for stepping up to the big leagues without sacrificing his signature style. Bonus points for Christopher Plummer playing the doppelganger to his immortal patriot, Georg Von Trapp! (A)

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