Inside Man is a good example of what happens when Hollywood hires a good director to make one of their mass market films. Instead of getting predictable and somewhat boring schlock, you get a film that, while still somewhat predictable, ends up being a lot of fun and certainly more satisfying.
Spike Lee knows how to make a good film and he fills the screen with pretty pictures that not only look good but also help to further the story along. He attracts actors of a certain calibre who can infuse their roles with a little more than the average player – even if they aren’t playing against type. Finally he makes a script that is somewhat hokey feel a little more believable. He does all these things for Inside Man.
In the hands of a lesser artist, Inside Man could have been just another run of the mill heist caper. The script occasionally teeters on falling over the edge of cheese but Lee manages to reign it in, giving us just the right amounts of slight of hand, character archetypes and moral indignation to fill two hours.
The promotion for this film makes it appear that it is full of twists and turns. This really isn’t the case. Most of the plot is clear from the beginning. The pleasure comes from seeing it play out. There is even a wonderfully ambiguous ending that doesn’t wrap up the world into a nice little package that just doesn’t exist.
Also, Lee’s stylistic choice of portraying Denzel Washington’s cop as a throwback to the blaxploitation days is an inspired choice.
Inside Man is a fun popcorn flick although probably not an overly memorable one. Seeing what Lee did with this script makes me wonder what he could have done with Rent if his plans to adapt the musical into a film had come to fruition.