Inside Man (15)

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The Independent Culture

The problem with most films' criminal masterminds is that they're not actually very intelligent, and it takes industrial quantities of luck and contrivance for their plans to work. That's what's different about Inside Man, Spike Lee's slow-burning heist drama. The crooks are clever, the cops are clever, and the first-time screenwriter, Russell Gewirtz, is obviously clever, too.

The leading crook is Clive Owen, who bursts into a Wall Street bank with three accomplices and holds everyone in it hostage. A police negotiator, Denzel Washington (inset), hurries to the scene with his partner, Chiwetel Ejiofor, the reigning British king of American accents. But there's more. The bank's patrician owner, Christopher Plummer, has a highly sensitive document stored in one of its safety deposit boxes, so he hires Jodie Foster's amoral fixer to make a deal with Owen and co. Whatever they steal, that document mustn't come to light.

Inside Man has two or three other strands I won't mention - two or three too many, in fact. But it's a rare treat to complain about a film having had too much thought put into it, rather than too little, and this one has been planned as painstakingly as any robbery.

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