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Arts and Entertainment

LAist watches Inside Man

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This LAist contributor would watch a BMW ad if it promised Clive Owen, so we happily handed over the $ to see Inside Man yesterday without complaint. Plus Denzel Washington? Crime thriller — whatever. We know a chick flick when we see one.

We kid. It is a crime thriller, and director Spike Lee knocks it out of the park. Everything moves along at a good clip, and it's got some nice twists and turns that never feel contrived. Lee does some cool things with narrative, like the excellent flash-forwards: they begin to move the heist-i-ness of the movie into the background and the puzzle of it — the Why, as Owen's character points out in the opening scene — into the foreground. And at one point, when police officers are imagining possible scenarios of storming a building, their visions are jarringly like a child's uber-violent video game.

The acting is excellent, with Denzel standing out as an immensely likeable but morally ambigious detective (making us think of Easy Rawlins in Devil in a Blue Dress). Chiwetel Ejiofor makes a good impression as his partner, and Willem Defoe is great to watch playing an understated, resigned cop. In our book, Jodie Foster was the weakest link, playing brittle without humor, power without ease.

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As Angelenos, we have to note that Spike Lee has got a far more sophisticated take on race relations than the makers of Crash. From the opening song (by Bollywood composer A.R. Rahman) it is multicultural without ever being about race. The movie exists in a multicultural city that lives with its frictions; the most important thing about people with power isn't the color of their skin but the content of their character.

Power, stereotypes and playing into expectations all swirl around in this terrific thriller. Did you like it as much as we did?