Title:  25th Hour

Release Date:  2002

Nationality and Language: USA English

Running time: 120 min

MPAA Rating: R

Distributor and Production Company:  Touchstone. Buena Vista

Director; Writer: Spike Lee

Producer: Tobey Maguire, Spike Lee, Ed Norton

Cast: Ed Norton, Anna Paquin, Philip Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox 

Technical: Panavision

Relevance to DOASKDOTELL site:



The critics have widely reported the premise, the last 24 hours of freedom before a convicted drug dealer played by Ed Norton reports to prison for a seven-year sentence, his middle-class life as he knows it destroyed. 


Oh, there is the fantasy at the end, of how he will rebuild an anonymous life in the desert, But this film is mostly an impassioned eulogy and soliloquy about our whole civilization from the point of view of a rather self-serving anti-hero. We see his downfall early in the film when cagey DEA fibbies come to his apartment to search for not well hidden cocaine.


Only a character actor like Ed Norton can pull a role like this off. (One could perhaps imagine Kevin Spacey or even James Woods here.) The whole movie is like a continuous exposition of memories and ideas, without critical recognition points. But it still works.


There is one particular soliloquy where he says, “F__k (every possible group), like gay men with waxed chests at circuit parties in Palm Springs, Jews in Brighton Beach sipping tea, Catholics, Protestants, white trash, everybody. Most of all, Osama bin Laden with his fundamentalist minions (the film recreates bin Laden’s Oct 7 2001 videotape and videos of the Al Qaeda and Taliban training camps).


His home was in Tribeca, looking out over Ground Zero, and there is one detailed sequence of the work that goes on the World Trade Center site today, with all of the layers of scaffolding and temporary construction in the Bathtub shown in pointillistic detail.


Gradually he becomes more concerned about his own physical prettiness, that will make him a target of prison homosexuality. He has himself beaten up so that he won’t look as “tempting.”


There is a subplot with a middle-aged English teacher who loses his control over the pursuit of his own nubile female students.  


The film might have been even stronger had they shown the opening moments of his incarceration when he reports to prison.


The expositionary style seems a lot like my own writing, so in mid January I had a vivid dream, of a major studio release, “Do Ask, Do Tell,” as a Spike Lee joint produced by Ed Norton. Some dreams do happen.


Inside Man (2006, Universal, dir. Spike Lee, wr. Russell Gewirtz, 129 min, R, p-1,a-1,r-1) sets up a twisty bank hostage situation. Denzel Washington is called in to negotiate a huge hostage situation at a bank. Clive Owen is Dalton Russell, the ring leader, and pretty soon runs into a convoluted plot involving a mysterious delivery to a safe deposit box.  While the hostages are brutalized, the robbers dress as hostages themselves, and make other illogical demands, such as a getaway plane (no longer reasonable, ever since Munich, let alone 9/11). Jodie Foster, as Madeline White, is the investigator ready to spill the beans. She is introduced as running a real estate business (she could have been one of Donald Trump's Apprentices, or perhaps one of his executioners on the Board Room) as a front for her more clandestine activities. Her first name makes her a bit of a mystery, and may be a play on a character with the same first name in "Vertigo."  Lee and Gewritz try to wring every irony they can out of their setup, but perhaps "The Departed", later in 2006, is more successful in a somewhat similar effort.  "Heat" makes a good comparison among bank heist movies. The movie seems to have been the subject of "paraphrase" in a recent episode of TheWB's "Supernatural."


When I was in Army Basic (1968), "outside man" was a duty station on KP. The "inside man" would have been either the "side sink man" or "dining room orderly."   



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