Review Date: January 12, 2003
Director: Spike Lee
Writer: David Benioff
Producers: Tobey Maguire, Julia Chasman
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.