25th Hour Review

Impossible it may be to have a clear vision for how to spend a final day of freedom, Spike Lee’s 25th Hour goes a fair distance in showing what could be possible for those faced with time behind bars. A darker side to New York is thrown into the spotlight but at the core of it all is a particularly light and real message. Lee would manage those far better with his push into the 21st-century and Edward Norton aids him particularly well with a leading role in 25th Hour. It is an ambiguous and entertaining breakdown of greed in the Big Apple. A look at the series of events that broke Norton’s leading character down and build him back up with a moral core to him. Lee takes this character study to fascinating highs and career-best moments.

Monty Brogan (Norton) may be a convicted drug dealer, but it does not steal from him his wiser and generous qualities. He takes ethical persuasion at the oddest moments. 25th Hour opens with a confident but slightly panicked desire to save a dog from an untimely demise. Injuring himself in the process, there is still that confidence available and desired for the role Monty finds himself filling. He is a hardman drug dealer brushing shoulders with lowlifes and law enforcers. Despite brushing shoulders with the drug addicts and dirty minds of the streets, Monty has resigned himself to failure. He knows there is futility in rekindling old flames of his past, but does so anyway for some sense of closure. Figuring out how paths have diverted is sometimes far scarier than depicting the drug dealing antics Monty found himself tied up in, and Lee discovers that early on. Reflecting on that well is no small commitment, but it is Norton and Brian Cox who carry that burden tremendously well.

Lee’s directing style sees cut after cut after cut. It is not a bad mixture of repetition, breathing life into otherwise redundant, simplistic scenes. There is a grit and grain over the top of 25th Hour that provides some surprising detail to the city and intricate depths to these characters. They are more than just antagonistic scum, but people willing to change and finding it hard to do so. Lee has crafted a great story of forgiveness and misgivings in the streets of New York. He and Norton take to those stylings well. The punches and bruises left by old friends hurt, but the sting behind them and the reconciliation they open these school friends to is a rewarding sight to take in. Lee fixates on it extremely well.

Sufficient character dynamics are drawn up in 25th Hour, a feature that compels audiences to both care for and be sickened by another tremendous performance from Philip Seymour Hoffman. The worked-up Wall Street banker, Frank Slaugherty (Barry Pepper) gets his dues too. There is a frequency within this Lee feature that provides an excuse for characters to say what they truly feel to a man they’ll likely never see again. He is wounded, as down and out as the dog he found in the opening moments, some years before his arrest. Lee crafts an interesting feature that wears its message on its sleeve. With quick-cut editing, Lee makes the simplicity of a shot-reverse-shot seem tense and interesting, even when it is meant to introduce two old friends having a brief encounter.

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