Director Spike Lee is best known for his edgy, angtsy films about African-Americans. Inside Man must be his most mainstream, commercial work to date, and the result is admirable.
Dalton Russell (Owen) has concocted what he considers the perfect bank robbery. His well-executed plan starts off with him and his accomplices posing as painters. Within minutes, Russell has complete control of the bank, holding about 50 people, bank employees and customers alike, hostage. Detective Keith Frazier (Washington) and his partner Bill Mitchell (Ejiofor) are entrusted with the responsibility as hostage negotiators. Frazier tries to figure out what Russell really wants and gain an upper hand.
Meanwhile, the bank’s founder, Arthur Case (Plummer) hires top negotiator Madeline White (Foster) to take care of some business at the bank branch. Apparently, Case has something super-secret in his safe deposit box and he would like to keep that a secret. White gladly takes the job (for an exorbitant fee, of course) without caring what is inside the box. The cat-and-mouse game continues as Russell, Frazier, and White try to outsmart one another. In time, Frazier realizes that the crime isn’t what it seems.
Washington (The Manchurian Candidate) is charismatic, cocky, but also vulnerable as Frazier. He gives an interesting and down-to-earth performance of a man who is sometimes irritatingly full of himself. Owen (Derailed) is focused as the calm, smart and calculated heist master. His demeanor makes us believe that his character truly believes that he has the perfect plan. Foster (Flightplan) plays against type as the ruthless business woman that even the mayor affectionately calls her a “magnificent c---.” She does a good job.
Plummer (The New World) is stoic and meek as the rich man with a past. Somehow, he gains our sympathy even though instinctively we know we shouldn’t. Dafoe (American Dreamz) is solid as NYPD Captain John Darius, whose calmness and strong command are in direct contrast to Frazier’s confusion. Ejiofor (Serenity) is an interesting sidekick to Washington, but his character doesn’t have much depth, or anything at stake, to really make us care about him.