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African-American Cinema, Hollywood

Spike Lee: Inside Man

Spike Lee certainly upsets people. I can understand the charges of misogyny and even the complaints of those who can’t cope with any kind of expressionism or melodrama. I can agree that he is an uneven filmmaker, but surely it’s obvious that he’s one of the most important filmmakers in Hollywood? Not to Peter Bradshaw in the Guardian. I’ve never come across a reviewer so annoying as Bradshaw. He’s obviously intelligent and perceptive and seems to have seen a wide range of films, but he has no sense of judgment. One star for Inside Man and dismissal of 25th Hour. Nuff said!

Inside Man
is terrific entertainment. The cast is to die for – I think I could cope with anything that put Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster in the front line and supported them with Chiwetel Ejiofor, rapidly becoming a Hollywood regular. I was also impressed with Clive Owen – thankfully not to be wasted on Bond films.

Is Inside Man more than ‘just’ an ‘entertainment’? It struck me during the film that it seems to draw heavily on the treatment of suspects at Guantanamo. The plot means that a large group of hostages in a bank heist are dressed in ‘coveralls’. The police are unable to distinguish the ‘witnesses’ from the ‘crooks’ and ship them off in a bus. Given jokes about Bin Laden and a Sikh witness’ complaint at being addressed as an ‘arab’ and the references start to pile up. Added to this Spike has chosen as opening and closing music the song ‘Chaiyya Chaiyya’ written by the maestro A. R. Rahman for Mani Ratnam’s Dil Se. Dil Se features Sharukh Khan as a journalist who falls in love with a ‘freedom fighter’ from Assam. To add further significance, the version of the song that closes the film includes the Coventry rapper Panjabi MC delivering lines in a distinctive West Midlands accent. If you’ve seen the Revolution Films production of The Road to Guantanamo about the Tipton Three it doesn’t take too much to make the connection.

I’ve no idea whether this is what Spike intended, but it worked for me. Panjabi MC is the third UK creative talent on the roster. Chiwetel manages something approaching an American accent, but Clive Owen, like the rapper, is distinctively British – weirdly noone comments on this.

Discussion

One thought on “Spike Lee: Inside Man

  1. The best way of reading Bradshaw’s reviews to count the stars he doesn’t give; this way ‘The Inside Man’ gets 4 stars.In ‘Granta’ 86 (Summer 2004) Andrew ‘O Hagen describes has dispirited he become when film critic of the Daily Telegraph. Clearly Bradshaw should give up; it takes special talent, I guess, not to become cynical watching movies all day, though Philip French has managed it.

    Posted by Nick Lacey | April 13, 2006, 11:31

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