You can look at this film in two ways.
The first is from the perspective of the Easter holiday teenage pleb. This is your basic ‘bank robber vs hostage negotiator’ as seen in films like ‘The Negotiator’. Not exactly a new concept. There’s the clever robber, Clive Owen, with his usual ‘trying to be cool by speaking slowly in a silly accent’, and the kooky detective, Den-ZEL Washington, whose mouth and speech patterns are so much like Adam Sandler’s I wouldn’t be surprised if they were brothers, apart from the obvious difference of course. There’s an extra notch to the plot as Jodie Foster, who has the weirdest shiny legs I’ve ever seen, is called in to protect a very sensitive item inside the bank. And that’s about it. The robber’s plan is sort of clever, but the end reveal isn’t jaw-dropping, just makes you go ‘oh’. It’s fairly enjoyable, but a bit too long.
The other perspective is from the person who reads things and knows that the director is Mr Spike Lee, who likes to make statements about things, you know, like racism blah blah. This is what I’ve read, anyway, because the only other Spike Lee film I’ve seen was Summer of Sam, which I turned off half way through due to rigid boredom. I was younger and therefore less intelligent, so I could have been wrong. I doubt it, though. Anyway, Spike has things to say, so what’s he saying with this tale of bank robbery? The answer is lots. Some points are strikingly obvious (“Nazis are bad” – oh really? You’ve so changed my view of the world) and forced down your throat (let’s have a scene with little Tommy playing a violent video game for no reason other than to highlight the violence of video games and rap, how clever). Other points sort of pissed me off. Example: put all the hostages in masks and they all look the same. Oh look, race is inconsequential, we’re all just human beings. Look how the police react when one mask reveals a white man, and the other reveals a Sikh. Racism is bad. Very true. But how come masks can conceal race, but not big titties? The women in this film are either sexual objects or (the intelligent one, of course) the essence of evil wrapped in skirt. Come on Spike – you’ll stick up for one ‘ism’, but what about the others?
Anyway, you don’t learn much about Clive Owen, so whether he wins or loses doesn’t really matter. Denzel is good, but isn’t he always. The plot is reasonable, but not mind blowing and with a few little holes (how did the robber know about the ‘sensitive materials’?) And the messages are convoluted and a little bit arsey.
BUT, despite all this, I didn’t hate the film. In fact, I sort of enjoyed it, in a brainless way. With Spike on board, it should have had a meatier message. But on face value, this is a robber vs. negotiator film that’s pretty good. Wouldn’t watch it again. Didn’t change my life. But it killed a couple of hours. It makes a rating of 7.