(R) 2 Stars

Jim Walker

I'll give it this much: Inside Man is OK compared to the remake crap Hollywood puts out these days. Did you see we'll soon be treated to a new version of Miami Vice? But, on its own, Spike Lee's popular new movie is all flash and little substance.

Inside Man is utterly forgettable because the story isn't that great, the payoff is so-so and the coolest guy in the movie, a crook played by Clive Owen, wears a mask the whole time. Then there's Jodie Foster's useless character. So what if she wears business suits and heels, walks all sassy, talks tough and owns an impressive product-placement Macintosh computer? Nothing she does makes any difference to the story or to the other characters or to us. We don't get to know her. We don't want to know her.

Maybe even worse is the requisite Bad Man Who Owns a Bank played by Christopher Plummer. He seems like a character from Indiana Jones who walked into Dog Day Afternoon. Even though Plummer was born - in real life - the year World War II started, we're supposed to believe he's old enough to have made his fortune working with the Nazis during the war. Lame.

The only person we learn much about is detective Keith Frazier, played by Denzel Washington. But we knew him before we walked in to see this move. He's the same guy Denzel plays in other movies. He's, of course, a streetwise risk taker who wears a fancy hat. He's, of course, in some heat over money missing from a bust. He's, of course, the kind of no-bullshit guy who isn't afraid to stick it to the mayor by walking into the middle of dinner somewhere.

There are some good things about this movie - especially for people seeking ideas for pulling off a really unique crime. But most of the best stuff happens in the first half hour. Then it's a waiting game. Lee also takes an interesting chance in revealing the outcome of the movie fairly early on. That choice and some nice interplay between Owen and a young hostage are about the only personal stamps Lee puts on this film.

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