With this film, Spike Lee finally steps outside himself and the result is arguably the first of his efforts since "Malcom X" not to buckle under the added weight of it's maker's obsession with identity politics. This is a movie about a clever bank robber (Clive Owen) executing a self-declared "perfect" heist, the tough-but-calm hostage negotiator (Denzel Washington) on the other end... and that's it.
Well, alright, not quite. This is still, after all, Spike Lee; and the usual creeping irritants of his ouvre still poke their heads out from time to time: New York is still fetishized, a lead actor still glides on a dolly-rig, a jarring pullback-from-closeup still reveals characters to be standing in front of a wall plastered with messagery and Jewish-American characters are still played for obvious caricatures; alongside a really moronic aside for a commentary on violence (and, of course, racism) in video games and Jodie Foster as an amoral ice-queen "fixer" who seems to have the entirety of NYC under her sway and is name, yes... Miss White. Cute.
But those little half-slivers of annoyance aside, overall Mr. Lee has put his stature as poster-boy for self-important message-mongering aside and let his skill as a filmmaker take the spotlight. The result: A cracking-good thriller.
The setup you know going in, anything else you shouldn't know and won't here from me. Suffice it to say that writer Russel Gerwitz has written a solid mini-marvel of a heist movie with a great collection of characters and a corker third act, and Spike Lee has directed the hell out of it. What you've heard is true: Spike Lee has FINALLY made good on his early promise and graduated from political-essayist to filmmaker.
And it's about damn time. Well done, and reccomended.
FINAL RATING: 9/10