25th Hour (2002)
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Review Date: January 12, 2003
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: David Benioff
Producers: Tobey Maguire, Julia Chasman
Edward Norton
Rosario Dawson
Barry Pepper
This film features the final day of one drug dealer's life as he prepares to go to jail for a period of 7 years. Before he leaves, the dealer has to resolve issues with his live-in girlfriend, hang out with his best friends, attend a "going away party" given to him by his Russian mob contacts, visit his father and find a good home for his dog. A longass day with a "nice guy" narcotics dealer ensues.
Yet another engaging motion picture by Spike Lee, this reflective drama features an original plotline, a number of well-established characters, an amazing turn by Barry Pepper, some emotion, some laughs and plenty to think about afterwards. Unfortunately, I also had a number of small complaints about Lee's latest joint, many of which didn't really make a huge difference in the "big picture", but did bother me enough to pull me "out of it" every now and again. For one, there was a reoccurring "chant" score that annoyed me. For two, I was initially quite moved by Lee's inclusion of the 9-11 tragedy, but at some point, felt like it was a little forced...specifically when the camera focused on "Ground Zero" during a conversation between two friends (great conversation, btw). Thirdly, anyone who has seen Lee's DO THE RIGHT THING knows that it features a very popularized tirade about the different ethnic minorities in New York City. For some very odd reason, Lee decided to play that exact same card here, and even though it made some sense to the story, it went on for too long and felt somewhat deja-vu, especially for. And lastly, even though I was somewhat surprised by one of the events which eventually crowned this flick, I was actually expecting a little more out of it, and thought the ending dragged on for a little too long. Phew! Okay, now all that may sound like a whole bunch of problems, but the truth is that they really didn't affect my overall enjoyment of the movie, which I would definitely recommend to anyone who appreciates gritty, well-acted character dramas. I also loved how that one DEA agent would say "Shiiiiiiiiiiiiit", but that's another story altogether.

The film isn't a "happy go lucky" story though, so don't go expecting Edward Norton to be "partying" it up. It reminded me a little of both DEAD MAN WALKING and SUMMER OF SAM. Walking through this day with the always reliable Norton, the film developed its characters, provided us with a proper amount of background on each and a true sense of how one person ultimately affects all the close people around him. The characters were also very appealing with Brian Cox playing the perfect Irish dad, Anna Paquin shining as the sexy underage student, Philip Seymour Hoffman giving us a little taste of his character from HAPPINESS and Rosario Dawson, looking sweet and mustering decent chemistry with Norton. But the butter that melted in this batch of popped corn was the powerful performance given by Pepper, who is introduced to us as your typical Gordon Gekko Jr. type with the fast-talk and no-bullshit attitude, but slowly amalgamates into a being with more than just one dimension. In fact, one of the final sequences between he and Norton is genuinely moving. I've always respected Pepper in his roles, but this one is definitely worthy of an awards status. Somebody pay attention out there! As for Spike Lee, his usual style is still present here, with Scorsese touches all around (the stuff with everyone slowly "walking" through the disco is straight out of MEAN STREETS), but he also provides a perfect sense of sorrow, oncoming darkness and thankfully doesn't give us any easy resolutions (for those who like their endings "cut and dry"...look elsewhere).

I'm a fan of this film because it was a well-paced character drama with a little touch of mystery and plenty of solid actors doing their thing during one man's final day "on the outside". The moral implications of each character's past actions also made for great food for thought. Sure, small bits could've been improved to make it an overall stronger picture (less emphasis on Hoffman's dilemma, for example), but as it stands now, it's definitely one to catch and who knows, with my nitpicks aside, you might even like it more than I did.
(c) 2018 Berge Garabedian

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