In recent years I have found Spike Lee movies to be very frustrating. Fifty percent of each movie I really like, but then there’s the remaining fifty percent that just infuriates me. It’s not bad filmmaking; it’s just unnecessary filmmaking. There is a lot of stuff in these films that doesn’t further the story, that is preachy, and simply doesn’t belong there. But the stuff that’s good is really, really good, and I found The 25th Hour to be another example of that.
plays small-time drug dealer Montgomery Brogan, who, after being arrested by the DEA, reevaluates his life in his last 24 hours before beginning a seven-year jail term. Interesting premise. Why then muddy it up with a commentary on September 11th that seems out of place, and kind of badly chosen? Exploring the relationship between Brogan and his two best friends, Jacob and Frank (Phillip Seymour-Hoffman and Barry Pepper) and how their friendship will change once Montgomery goes to jail would have been a great character drama.
Instead Lee adds a September 11th angle that feels tacked on and doesn’t add to the movie. Don’t get me wrong, it probably comes from a very sincere place. Spike Lee makes incredible movies about New York and is passionate about the city and probably felt like he had to find a way to tell this story, but he ties the September 11th angle to Montgomery’s story, and in the context of the whole movie I didn’t really understand the connection. If we are supposed to infer that the life New York was changed by the terrorist attacks just as the life of Edward Norton’s character was changed by getting arrested I think it is a weak comparison, and frankly, inappropriate. The dynamic between the three friends is great. I wanted more of that. Loose the September 11th stuff, some of the peripheral story lines and just tell me that story and it would have been a better movie.
25th Hour is classic Spike Lee – brilliant, fearless but at the same time troublesome.
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