25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)

…and you cannot take the “sheeeeeeeyit” out of Isiah Whitlock Jr., whether he’s playing Clay Davis or otherwise.

But all kidding aside, this might be the best thing Spike’s ever done (I’ve only seen 3 of his movies, and one of those was the ultimate doing-it-for-the-paycheck movie, Inside Man   ), from the big fuck-you montage where Spike’s ripping off his own movie, but it’s just as genuine and powerful (and filled with Monty’s agonizing desire to lash out at the world that he purports to have screwed him, but filled even more with his own self-loathing, that his predicament is the result of nobody’s fault but his own, but will not admit it outwardly), to the final Brian Cox-narrated “Last Temptation of Christ”-esque segment that should and will move you to tears (I’ve never seen Last Temptation of Christ ) to Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jacob going through with what he’s been dying to do, and the incredible sense of regret and despair that results – a good Shakespearean-esque minor parallel to the main plot. I disagree with reviews I’ve read that claim that the women are essentially pushed to the side – true, the men get the bulk of the screentime, and excellently so – you really feel like these three guys have known and loved each other their entire lives, the screenplay is that cliché-free – but I also felt that Rosario Dawson’s Naturelle was one of the strongest of all the characters: true she’s chosen to stick by the side of this loser drug dealer as long as she has, and maybe Barry Pepper’s Frank is on to something when he dares to suggest that she’s simply a golddigger, but there was just something there between her and Monty, some indescribable bond like she understands him better than he understands himself, and thankfully neither Spike nor David Benioff try to explain that bond overtly (Anna Paquin’s shrill schoolgirl, on the other hand, left something to be desired in the character development department – but then again, the whole point is for her to be an attractive and untouchable enigma for Jacob, so maybe it works after all). The screenplay can get wordy, like when Jacob and Frank are discussing the doom of their relationship with Monty on the eve of his prison sentence, in a scene overlooking Ground Zero (the 9/11 parallel to the overall sense of doom for the bond between these characters was surprisingly understated, despite Spike’s as-usual bombastic music cue when Ground Zero is first seen outside of Frank’s window), but thankfully not too wordy when it comes to the bonds between and the pasts of these characters, merely hinted at in short flashbacks and only discussed in the faintest hint of hindsight. The layers within this story abound, both philosophically (the 9/11 feelings hanging over everything like a specter) and the rich relationships between these people who both love and hate each other. Where so many night-in-the-life movies just try to ape Altman and cram in as many stories and “relationships” as it can to try to feel epic or something, this story of Monty’s last night of freedom, his coming to terms with his own mistakes, and how that’s affecting his girlfriend, best friends, father, and dog, gets it right – so simply told, yet incredibly complex. The mere thought of a stupid and greedy drug dealer contemplating going on the run to avoid a 7-year prison sentence because he’s afraid of getting raped should inspire zero sympathy for such a man, but by the time Brian Cox is laying out the American dream, to the point where you’re really not sure whether what you’re seeing is real or imagined, it isn’t just Monty being tempted with freedom, it’s you being tempted with the thought of an outward loser like Monty attaining freedom, and it is very tempting.



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