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Almost as much as Woody Allen, Lee makes movies that are in some way or another tributes to the Big Apple, yet what makes 25th Hour different is its post-9/11 topicality. This one isn't centrally about that tragic day, yet its specter hangs over the entire film: Characters view the decimated Ground Zero; they discuss the tragedy; they reflect on it. Watching these scenes, it's hard to shake the feeling that this was the movie Lee really wanted to make, one that explored the crisis in depth and how it deeply affected the very soul of the city. Instead, the focus of 25th Hour, based on a novel by David Benioff written before 9/11 (Benioff also wrote the script), is Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a drug dealer on the verge of being sent away to prison for seven years. Monty's dilemma is that he needs to find out who ratted on him -- could it really have been his sweetheart (Rosario Dawson)? This angle is the least interesting part of the picture; more compelling are the scenes involving his relationship with his dad (Brian Cox), and his camaraderie with his two disparate childhood pals, one now a Wall Street hotshot (Barry Pepper), the other a high school teacher (Philip Seymour Hoffman) lusting after one of his students (Anna Paquin). Portions of 25th Hour clearly don't work, yet this big, bold picture reaffirms the image of Spike Lee as a cinematic iconoclast -- and one who steadfastly refuses to take prisoners.
Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
(Sam Rockwell, George Clooney).
(Chaney Kley, Emma Caulfield).
(Charlie Hunnam, Christopher Plummer).
(Adrien Brody, Thomas Kretschmann).