Thursday, August 23, 2018

The Perfect Heist

Inside Man
Director: Spike Lee
Cast: Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster, Christopher Plummer, Chiwetel Elijofor, Willem Dafoe
Released: March 24, 2006
Viewed in theaters: March 28, 2006

Spoilers ahoy!

I guess since after watching HeatI was still in the mood to watch a movie with a bank heist, so I chose this one when I saw that it was on Netflix. However, unlike Heat where the bank robbery is only one scene in the entire movie, the entire plot of Inside Man is about the heist. The movie opens with a bunch of people at a bank in New York City: we see the tellers, the security guards, and the patrons waiting in line. There's a man with his young son who's playing a game on his electric device, there's an obnoxious woman talking loudly on a phone and a security guard has to tell her to lower her voice, a woman listening to her iPod and singing along to it, a rabbi, and others. In a way, these people reminded me of the people on the bus in Speed: none of them are played by anyone you would recognize, but they're all characters who you learn about throughout the course of the movie as we will see more of them. Of course, with Speed, there's what, fifteen people on the bus who aren't Keanu Reeves or Sandra Bullock, so it's easier to get to know all of them. In Inside Man, there's about fifty extras who are in the bank during the heist so we only get to know a select few. During the film we see some of the people who were in the bank being interrogated by Detective Keith Frazier (that's Frazier with a Z!) played by Denzel Washington who dons a very stylish hat and his partner, Detective Bill Mitchell played by Chewetel Elijofor. All of those scenes are interwoven while what's happening in the bank is still going on. You know all these interviews are taking place after everyone is out of the bank and you know those people made it out alive.

While this is a heist movie, it's also a hostage movie. Clive Owen plays Dalton Russell who has set in motion the perfect bank robbery with his crew, which includes two other guys and one woman. They walk into the bank dressed as painters (including wearing masks and sunglasses) as though they're there to do some job. Nobody even blinks or notices them. Not until one of the higher ups at the bank realizes that they didn't hire anyone to do any paint jobs and when he questions Russell, that's when he screams at everyone to get down and the rest of his crew point guns at everyone until they're all laying on the ground.

They gather everyone and divide them up into two groups: employees and patrons and gather everyone's phones and keys. One bank worker tells Russell that he forgot his phone and Russell, not believing him, tells him he's going to ask him again, but the man insists he forgot it. I really thought he was being sincere since Russell tells him if he lies to him, he'll kill him and I'm sure the man would have produced his phone if he really had it with him. Russell starts going through all the other bank workers' phones, seeing if any of them have Peter Hammond, the name of the man who forgot his cell phone, on their speed dial. (And you can tell right away this movie came out before the iPhone was a thing, because there's not a one to be seen in this movie! We will later see a very early version of the iPod which looks very archaic in this day!) When he comes across a phone that does have Hammonds number, he dials it and hears a phone in a nearby office ring. He doesn't kill Peter, but he does take him into the office where he beats him.

They then make everyone take off their clothes and put on jumpsuits, similar to the ones the robbers are wearing. This is to confuse the police so they won't know who the hostages are from the bank robbers. This is why we see the two detectives interviewing everyone later on: to see if they were part of the robbery. The hostages will be divided randomly into three or four different rooms, sometimes changing people to another room and even inserting one of the robbers into one of the rooms to pretend they're one of them. Since they're all wearing the same uniforms, it's all very confusing, not just for the hostages, but for the viewing audience!

Can I just say that being taken hostage would be one of my worst nightmare sceanrios? (And I have about a million worst nightmare scenarios).  Obviously, it would be quite terrifying, especially if people were being killed and you didn't know if you were safe or not. But honestly? On a more selfish level? I think it would just be so boring. You wouldn't know how long you would be in this situation. What if you got hungry or had to pee? You probably wouldn't have your phone or anything to keep you occupied. You wouldn't be able to check Facebook or listen to a podcast or read a book or watch a movie on Netflix. You probably wouldn't be able to talk to anybody else, like these people were instructed. You would be too scared and worried to fall would just be so boring! Heh, I just realized that it seems I would be much more worried about being bored than about the possibility of being murdered if I were ever taken hostage.

The two detectives are paired with Captain John Darius (Willem Dafoe) and his crew where they have a van with surveillance set outside the bank. During the course of the hostage crisis, a few civilians are set free, often with a message for the police. The first is an old man who was wheezing and claiming he was having a heart attack. Since he's wearing a jumpsuit and mask, he has to tell the police not to shoot and that if they go inside, the next two people who are brought out will be dead bodies. From this first released hostage, they know there are four perpetuators, including one woman, and they are also donning the same outfits.

When another hostage is released with a message telling them they need food for 50 people, they send in pizzas with listening devices attached to the boxes. They are told by one of the officers that pizza works better than sandwiches because then you can hear conversations of the people who have to huddle around the pizza box to eat instead of going their own separate ways with their individual sandwiches. But the criminals are too smart for them and put on an old propaganda tape of the Albanian president. The police don't realize this until much later. At first they think it's Russian, but when they get their Russian language expert to analyze it, he tells them he doesn't recognize it. When they play it over a loud speaker and ask the group of spectators if anyone recognizes the language, a guy comes forward, telling them it's Albanian and he knows this because his ex-wife is from Albania. Since they don't have any Albanian language speakers in the field, they ask the guy to call his ex. She tells them she will help as long as they make her parking tickets go away, then tells them it's a recording of a dead Albanian president.

You can tell the writer of this movie is a fan of Al Pacino, specifically '70s Al Pacino because there are references to three of his movies: The Godfather, Serpico, and Dog Day Afternoon. When Frazier finally talks to Russell on the phone, Russell refers to him as "Serpico." He tells Frazier that he wants a plane fueled and ready and as long as he gets that, nobody will be killed.

Meanwhile, the founder of the bank and chairman of the board, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer) has hired power broker Madeline White (Jodie Foster), a person who has "very special skills and complete discretion" to fix problems. Case tells her he has something of great value to him in one of the lockboxes at the bank and he wants to be sure that it doesn't get into the wrong hands. Madeline assures him she'll do what she can and is able to enter the bank to speak to Russell. After speaking to her on the phone, he invites her inside once he is satisfied she's neither a cop nor works for the bank. She tells him that he's not stupid, that he knows that he's not going to be able to escape from this and that she will be able to arrange for him to only have three or four years of jail time since he hasn't stolen anything or killed anyone...yet. (That may be true, but he sure has assaulted many people!) She also offers to have two million dollars waiting for him once he is out of prison. He tells her, "Thanks, but no thanks." During their conversation, we find out that when Case was a young man, he worked for a bank in Switzerland during World War II where he used money from the Nazis to start this bank. Russell has already retrieved what was inside the lockbox which included documents from Nazi Germany, proving that Case had ties to the Nazis. wonder he wanted to keep that hush hush! Russell uses this information to blackmail her and she tells him that he will be paid a good amount of money if he destroys the contents. She asks him how he even plans to get out and he simply replies, "I'm going to walk through the front doors."

Madeline tells Detective Frazier the deal she offered Russell, but Frazier doesn't believe that she would go in to tell him something that he already knew. She is convinced that he's not going to kill anyone because he doesn't seem like a murderer and Frazier tells her, "You never know what a person will do until you've pushed the in a corner" to which Madeline replies, "But it doesn't seem like you've pushed him into a corner." This statement will stay with him as we will later see in a few scenes.

The fact that Russell doesn't seem to be in any rush, despite making demands for a plane has Frazier wondering and he calls Russell with the news that his plane is ready, but before he can allow him on, he needs to inspect the bank first to make sure that nobody has been killed. He is let into the bank after he is patted down and shown the four rooms with all the hostages. He tells Russell he knows he's stalling and there's no way he plans to get on a plane with 50 hostages (I had no idea he was planning on taking the hostages with him!) and Frazier knows that Russell knows that won't work because he saw Dog Day Afternoon. (Thanks for spoiling that for me, Denzel!) I do have Dog Day Afternoon in my Netflix queue along with fifty other movies, not to mention the fifteen movies I have on my "to watch" list on Netflix Instant. So, eventually, I'll get around to watching and reviewing it! He wants to know what his real plan is, but Russell won't reveal anything to him, only that he'll walk out the door when he's good and ready. Before he leaves, Frazier attacks Russell, but immediately has a gun to his head by one of the other criminals. Since Russell had the chance to kill him, but didn't, this proves to Frazier that he's not the killing type. Hmmm, I feel like Frazier was a little too close to playing Russian roulette with that move on attacking Russell: if he doesn't get killed, Russell's not the murdering type. If he does get killed, well, he's dead! I don't think I'd want to take a chance like that! However, he seems to be wrong about Russell because Russell calls him and tells him to put the camera on the second floor window and they see a hostage with a bag over their head get executed. So much for the theory that Frazier had about Russell not being a violent person.

The next shot of the movie is Frazier walking back to the bank with a pissed-off look on his face. Except the way they shot it, he's not walking, he's more like gliding. You can tell that Denzel is standing on something with wheels and is being pulled. It looks really weird, but you know that Spike Lee loves this shot because he used it as Denzel's clip at the end of the movie when all the actors are being credited with their own scene from the movie. To me, it would look way more menacing if he were actually walking with a purposeful stride. It is a very artistic choice, but doesn't work in the context of the scene. I guess this is something Spike Lee does in a lot of his films.

Now that someone has been killed, it's time to get serious and end this thing before anything else catastrophic happens. Frazier realizes, after they've had a conversation about how they plan to infiltrate the bank, that the criminals have probably put a listening device on one of the items that have been brought out with the hostages. He is proven right, but is too late to stop them from entering the bank. It's chaotic, but all the hostages are released with no one being killed. The only problem is, since they're all dressed the same as the criminals, they can't decipher the hostages from the robbers and that is when they're all taken in for questioning. Everyone is treated as a suspect. The police look around the bank and find some very peculiar things which include fake weapons, a prop that was used to fake the execution with fake blood, and the fact that nothing was taken from the bank.

Since there's no way to determine who robbed the bank, Frazier is told by his superior to bury it. Nobody was killed and nothing was stolen, so no harm. Frazier knows there's got to be more to the story, because why else would this whole thing have happened. He keeps pursing the case and discovers that the only safety deposit box that doesn't have any records is number 392 which contains Mr. Cases's Nazi paraphernalia, a ring which used to belong to a Jewish friend whom Case betrayed to the Nazis, and diamonds. When Frazier and Mitchell get a warrant to search box number 392, they only find the ring is still there. Russell has taken the diamonds and the Nazi documents as an insurance policy. The two detectives confront Case about the mysterious lockbox with the ring, but he tells them nothing. When Frazier finds Madeline having lunch at a fancy restaurant with the Mayor, he implores her to contact the War Crime Issues Office in D.C. I did love when he enters the restaurant, a snooty maitre'd asks for his hat and he replies, "No, you may not have it. Get your own." Ha!

During the movie, the four perpetrators had been woking on building a fake wall in the supply room which Russell hid behind for a week (they also dug a hole for him to use as a toilet...not sure what he did about food, I imagine he brought enough. Now that I think about it, I'm not sure why he was in there for an entire week; that seems a little excessive). He is, in fact, able to walk right out the front doors just as he said he would. Although, you would think after spending a week without being able to shower, he would smell terribly (which is even brought up by his crew when they are there to pick him up), but nobody even seems to pay any attention or make any comments as he's exiting the bank. Maybe it's not unusual for people to smell in New York! Russell is not only carrying a heavy backpack on his back, but he's also holding a heavy duffel bag. You think that would be a bit suspicious, but no, nobody seems to notice this. He is able to leave the bank without anybody paying any mind to him at all.

If you like heist movies, you will like this one and if you like Denzel Washington, you will like this movie, I guarantee it! 

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