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25th Hour (2002)

Can you change your whole life in a day?

Directed by:

Spike Lee

Rating: 7/10

Running Time: 135 minutes

UK Certificate: 15

On DVD

Country: United States

‘25th Hour’ is a film in many ways unlike any other you’ll see this year. As you’d expect from director Spike Lee, it has a certain raw originality about it. Physically there’s very little going on, but it also manages to be strangely thought-provoking. It also constantly walks a thin line between the bleak and the uplifting, without ever veering off into either category, even at its very end.

Edward Norton stars as Monty Brogan, a sharp, intelligent and well-spoken man who also just happens to be a drug-dealer in cahoots with the Russian Mafia. Early on in the movie he’s already decided to pack in his life of crime – but no matter, because it’s too late. The cops are already on to him and, before you know it, he’s facing seven years in the slammer.

The film traces his last day of freedom, as he settles his business with the mob, has a heart-to-heart with his recovering-alcoholic father James (Brian Cox), says goodbye to his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson), and goes out for one final night on the tiles with best pals Jacob and Frank (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper).

It takes its time in letting us get to know the characters, and we find out that each of the four male parts spend their time wrestling with their consciences, albeit in different ways. James, for example, blames himself for his son’s slide into crime, while Jacob – a plump, dweeby English teacher – feels increasingly lustful towards one of his students (Anna ‘X-Men’ Paquin).

Monty, meanwhile, is a deceptively complex individual with shades of both good and bad to his character – and it’s tough to imagine anyone better suited to pulling it off than Norton. The film features a memorable scene in which he goes off on a rant about every ethnic and social group he can think of, before finally condemning himself to the same slagging (talk about a moment of self-reflection!).

Running at 135 minutes, it’s dangerously lengthy for a film with such largely uneventful subject matter. For all of its finer moments, there are also parts that drag on for far too long. But it’s also one of the more thoughtful and well-acted movies of recent years, and is worth making time to see.

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It's Got: A superb, if rarely seen, performance from Brian Cox, who makes the final portion of the movie his own.

It Needs: A more realistic nightclub scene. The place is supposedly so packed that people are being turned away, yet our protagonists manage to plonk themselves down at a table as soon as they’re in. Never!

DVD Extras Deleted scenes, choice of commentary from either the director or the screenwriter, and a couple of featurettes titled ‘Evolution of an American Filmmaker’ and ‘Ground Zero’. DVD Extras Rating: 6/10

Summary

In the hands of another director it may well have come across as melodramatic or preachy, but under the Spikester it pretty much works. Give this one a go if you’re looking for something a bit different.

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