Washington plays another realistic and imperfect hero, Detective Keith Frazier, who encounters bank robbing team lead by Dalton Russell, played by Clive Owen (Gosford Park, Closer). Russell’s boldness rules the roost as he clues you into his bank heist plan in some beginning narration and even tips his hat to Frazier about his escape plan.
His steady confidence creates an unlikely power shift against the negotiating Frazier and his supporting team including Captain John Darius, played by Willem Dafoe (Spider-Man, Platoon).
Look for Chiweter Ejiofor, who plays Frazier’s partner Detective Bill Mitchell, in a potential star making performance. This film supplied a high-profile springboard for this excellent British theater trained actor.
Ejiofor compliments Washington well in a partnership where both actors probably improved each other’s performances. Frazier admits mistakes only to Mitchell and exhibits selfishness after meeting White, but then recovers when he discovers Russell’s surprising intentions.
After Frazier and Mitchell appear on the scene, a mysterious, but ambiguous business woman named Madeline White arrives. Jodie Foster plays this transient power broker who drops everything to take a call from the head of the bank, played by Christopher Plummer, and act as his liaison throughout the police negotiations lead by Frazier.
White embodies what’s important in today’s political world, power and connections, but you may not know why she’s the best skilled person for the task. The plot uses her status with the mayor and financial prowess to help you make an assuming leap. She could definitely have her own spin-off film where you would see how she collects “friends, not enemies.”
First time screenwriter Russell Gewirtz creates a smart plot that yields surprises even when some characters reveals clues through their dialogue. The interview segments provide clues and downplay the thrills because you know that certain characters survive the ordeal.
The plot has original and deliberate action instead of senseless violence and gung-ho protagonists full of macho attitude. Lee peppers the film with his usual social and racial commentary, including a great sequence where Russell discusses a violent video game with a child hostage.
Terence Blanchard provides a great, jazz filled musical score as he’s done for several of Lee’s films.
Money, respect and personal motivation all come into play as filmmakers create plenty of great scenes among the three lead actors. The variety in the plot and direction keeps the 2 hour and 9 minute running time going strong.
Recommended (***) and rated R for violence and strong language. A sequel would have been great… maybe someday.
Copyright © Michael Siebenaler