For the most part, the Millennial Generation is composed of hopeless nincompoops whose taste in movies, television and books is so vapid and cretinous that being boiled in oil would be preferable to watching one of their picks. But there are exceptions. I work with a young fellow who has demonstrably received an education that includes many of the elements of the Old School. He has a good grounding in history and science and is acquainted with the western canon of literature. Without a doubt he leans far more to the left than I do but paraphrasing Churchill a man in his twenties who isn’t a liberal has no heart. Well about a week ago we were talking about crime dramas and he asked me whether I like the “caper” movie genre. I assumed he was going to mention Ocean’s Eleven or a Guy Ritchie film. But he said it was a movie with Denzel Washington as a New York City Police Detective negotiating a hostage crisis during an abortive bank robbery. It sounded interesting. I like many of Washington’s movies. As an expat New Yorker, I’m sort of a pushover for New York City stories so I was interested. But then he said it was a Spike Lee film.
I had never, up to that point, watched a Spike Lee “joint.” I consider him a race hustler who has built his reputation by fanning the flames of black animosity toward white people. All in all, I consider him a jerk.
In my reaction to my young friend’s suggestion I mentioned these feelings. He did his best to assure me that this was a pure crime drama without any hint of racial justice propagandizing. Based on his past track record of good sense, I begrudgingly decided to give it a shot.
So last night I watched it. It was good. It was very good. Full disclosure, there were a few minor race hectoring flourishes that added nothing to the story. But they did little to harm the story either. I looked at them as involuntary reflexes that Spike Lee probably didn’t even know he’d added. But they were minor and didn’t spoil the story.
The movie is a very good caper. I won’t spoil any of the plot but will just say that there are lots of balls in the air and several interesting major characters and lots of minor characters doing interesting things. Denzel is the star of the movie outside of the bank and Clive Owen is the star inside the bank. Other relatively big-name actors are Christopher Plummer, Jody Foster and Willem Dafoe. Washington’s cop partner is played by Chiwetel Ejiofor whom I know from his role as “The Operative” in “Serenity.” And lots other unknowns do good work as the hostages, cops and criminals.
So, knowing that Spike Lee made this picture does detract from my enjoyment of the film. I begrudge the African music he adds at the beginning and end. I take points off for those flourishes of racial sniping I mentioned above. But after all that I am forced to admit it’s a very good caper film. I recommend it to anyone who likes this genre. It’s highly enjoyable and skillfully constructed. Well done Spike Lee?