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25 Hours a Day
Spike Lee's 25th Hour
by Anhoni Patel on Aug 20, 2004
Friends are one of the most important things you can have in life. And not just any friends - not the hi-and-bye kind, or the fair-weather ones, or the type you hang out with only at parties. No, the real kind: the kind that take care of you when you're sick, and drive you to the airport at four o'clock in the morning, and listen to you when you need to cry. But there are times when even your most faithful friends can't help you and you are left on your own - and those are very bad times indeed.
Director/producer Spike Lee's latest effort 25th Hour is about many things, but mostly it's about friendship.
Montgomery Brogan (Edward Norton) is going away for a long time and may never come back. He has twenty-four hours to enjoy his last moments of freedom and chooses to spend it with the people he loves. He has dinner with his protective, widowed father James (Brian Cox) and meets up with two childhood friends, the sweet and awkward Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) a high school teacher who harbors jailbait desires for one of his students, Mary (Anna Paquin), and über-male Francis (Barry Pepper), a Wall Street investor brimming over with testosterone and aplomb. Meanwhile, Monty tries avoiding his buxom, fresh-faced girlfriend, Naturelle Riviera (Rosario Dawson) for fear that she may have been the one that turned him in.
The chemistry between the actors is easy and natural as if all had actually known one another for years; James and Monty have a sweet, poignant rapport as father and son, particularly in the last scene of the film.
There are several outstanding scenes: one being the introduction in which Monty and his bodyguard buddy Kostya (Tony Siragusa) find a mangled dog on the side of the road and try to rescue it, and another when the three friends and the two women end up at a dance club during which the movie builds up to its approaching denouement. Lee directs brief yet dazzling dance floor scenes with a flair for portraying the reverie one can feel when a DJ spins the perfect set while transposing them against emotionally edgy conversations between the three friends as each is faced with bidding Monty goodbye.
There's one scene that stands apart from the others, one in which Monty stands in front of a bathroom mirror in his father's bar and suddenly and surreally goes on a tirade on the wretchedness of the various peoples that occupy New York - the Pakistani taxi drivers, the diamond dealing Hasidic Jews, the Puerto Ricans, the b-ball players, the Bensonhurst I-talians, etc. (no one is spared). After you're left shocked and slightly bruised, the movie goes back to what it was doing before as if nothing ever happened. Did you just stumble into a screening of American History X?
Is Spike Lee (an outspoken I-Love-NY posterboy) venting some secret angst against his beloved city? In contrast, throughout the film there are blatant homages and referrals to 9/11 and the attacks on the World Trade Center; the intro credits are filmed at the memorial put up on the wreckage, and there is at least one digressing scene that has nothing to do with the plot, whose only existence seems to be to pay respect to the loss.
Although every single performance in this film is strong, Barry Pepper steals the show. He constantly spits out lines like, "What are you - R.Kelly?" (when Jakob tells him of his obsession with Mary) with precision and venom. He unravels the position of a distraught friend with complexity and empathy. Long pushed to the sidelines, this is the actor's breakout performance; someone give this guy a medal.
The promos make 25th Hour sound like a really dull, sappy movie about this dead-end guy doing some heart-wrenching soul searching - don't believe the hype. While Monty does grapple with a lot of life-changing issues what these blurbs fail to mention is that the movie is essentially about friendship and choices and reality. They fail to tell you that this flick has enormous amounts of humor, chemistry so dense it drips off the screen and directing so persuasive you want to jump into the movie to save the characters from their fates. Despite what you may think - your ten bucks will be worth it.
2 hours 14 minutes
Philip Seymour Hoffman
by Anhoni Patel on Aug 20, 2004