Monday, February 3, 2014

Review: Spike Lee's "25th Hour" Focuses on Mood (Remembering Philip Seymour Hoffman)

TRASH IN MY EYE No. 116 (of 2006) by Leroy Douresseaux

25th Hour (2002)
Running time:  135 minutes (2 hours, 15 minutes)
MPAA – R for strong language and some violence
DIRECTOR:  Spike Lee
WRITER:  David Benioff (based upon his novel, The 25th Hour)
PRODUCERS:  Spike Lee and Jon Kilik and Julia Chasman and Tobey Maguire
EDITOR:  Barry Alexander Brown
COMPOSER:  Terrence Blanchard
Golden Globe nominee


Starring:  Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa, Tony Devon, and Isaiah Whitlock, Jr.

The subject of this movie review is 25th Hour, a 2002 drama from director, Spike Lee.  The film is based on The 25th Hour, a 2001 novel by David Benioff, who also wrote the screenplay for this film.  25th Hour the movie focuses on a convicted New York City drug dealer who reevaluates his life in the last 24 hours of freedom he has before he begins serving a seven-year jail term.

Montgomery “Monty” Brogan (Edward Norton) is just a day away from entering prison on a seven-year stint for dealing heroin.  He spends the last 24 hours of his freedom with his two best friends – his childhood buddies, Frank (Barry Pepper), a Wall Street bond trader; and Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a high school English teacher; and his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson).  They plan to party the night away at their New York City haunts as they ruminate on the their pasts and futures and on 9/11.  Monty also touches base with his widower father, Frank (Brian Cox), who has trouble dealing with what has happened to his only child.

Spike Lee’s 25th Hour isn’t so much about plot and story as it is about emotions and moods.  The story is certainly compelling – a man trying to find some closure the last day of is freedom (especially when one considers that Monty Brogan really doesn’t look like he’s going to do well in prison).  However, Lee emphasizes the raw feelings and powerful emotions, as well as the thoughts that press and weigh on the mind of a condemned man.  It makes for some riveting scenes, such as the one in which Monty asks Frank to help him get the right look for prison (by beating him up).  There is an equally poignant, heart-rending, and ultimately beautiful monologue in which Monty’s dad, Frank, offers him a vision for a better tomorrow.  Combine that with the 9/11 references, and this is a New York film that is familiar to us all.

There are good performances all around, making the most of Lee’s stunning succession of potent moods.  No really stands out, because all the leads: Norton, Hoffman, Pepper, Dawson and Cox get at least a few chances to show their dramatic chops in an earthy way that tests their intellects as actors.  The film does dry up in a few places, but its closing sequence will remind viewers of how well a film can capture the human story.

8 of 10

2003 Golden Globes, USA:  1 nomination: Best Original Score - Motion Picture (Terrence Blanchard)

2003 Black Reel Awards:  3 nominations: “Theatrical - Best Supporting Actress” (Rosario Dawson), “Theatrical - Best Director” (Spike Lee), “Best Film” (Spike Lee, Tobey Maguire, Jon Kilik, and Julia Chasman)

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Updated:  Monday, February 03, 2014

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