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A.J.'s Rating: 4 Stars & a bitchin' dog
25th Hour
Directed By:  Spike Lee
Written By:  David Benioff
Starring:  Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson,
Anna Paquin , Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa
Rated:  R  (Excessive use of the 'F' word)
Running Time:  134 Min.
  There's no other way to say this, so here goes... I'm confused.  More precisely, I'm confused about this movie.  In it, we meet Monty Brogan, played by Edward Norton.  After a short but profitable life in the drug trade, he's finally been pinched by the law.  Now, he's facing a hard seven years in the clink, and not so surprisingly, isn't looking forward to it.  The story concerns his exploits with friends, relations, former business associates, and a faithful dog during his last day of freedom.  That's the movie.  There really is no beginning or ending to this film.  It's all middle, over two hours worth of it.  What I found confusing was that it's quite an excellent bit of middle and very satisfying entertainment!  How did Spike Lee know this would work?!
    Hiring a wonderful group of actors certainly had something to do with it.  While Edward Norton continues to flirt with the Gods of type-casting, he nevertheless manages to bring some original qualities to this version of his intensely quiet, angst-ridden anti-hero.  Co-starring is Philip Seymour Hoffman, who turns in his customary high-quality performance.  As far as today's character actors are concerned, Hoffman is right on par with Benicio Del Toro and Vincent D'Onofrio in my book.  The remaining cast also does a fine job, especially once you've considered that this movie allows for nearly no character development!  (But Mr. Lee, what's my motivation?!)
    One standout scene features a shockingly frank monologue by Monty, as he gingerly rattles off virtually every ethnic group in existence, as well as his reasons for hating each of them.  Lee accompanies this diatribe with a visual montage, presenting each group as Monty shares his venomous thoughts.  While some may cry overkill, I believe that, with this single scene, Monty's true character is laid bare, both to the audience and, for perhaps the first time, to himself.  It is an astonishingly memorable moment of self-realization.
    Not satisfied to just venture beyond the well-established rules of film narrative, Spike Lee also has the fortitude to make 25th Hour the first major New York film to fully acknowledge the terrorist attacks of September 11th, 2001.  This observance of 9/11 even fits with 25th Hour's storyline, with Monty's apprehensiveness toward his future situation serving to parallel our own fear and uncertainty toward a post-9/11 world.  With this work, Lee has shown respect for the event and for the city and people of New York.  For better or worse, Spike Lee's joints have always strived to embrace a greater Truth, and 25th Hour is no exception.
    For me, there was only one part of this movie that didn't work.  The DEA agents were incredibly lame.  While the rest of this film is unerringly realistic, the DEA agents who nab Monty seemed as though they had been sampling too much of their own evidence.  Actually, now that I think about it, that may be closer to reality than I had originally suspected.  If this is true, disregard my complaint and chalk it up to my middle-class suburban naivety!
    It goes without saying that Spike Lee directed this film with incredible skill, so I won't.  25th Hour combines some great performances with a daringly unorthodox storytelling format to create a dramatic film experience not quite like anything I've seen before.  It is truly a bold and successful experiment.
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Review published
February 6, 2003
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