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25th Hour: DVD Review
By Rame
 

DVD Details

Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Edward Norton
Runtime: 135 minutes
Special Features: Director Commentary, Screenwriter Commentary, Deleted Scenes, Ground Zero Featurette, and The Evolution of an American Filmmaker

I like Spike Lee movies, no I take that back I love Spike Lee movies. Why? Because he is one of the few directors that are able to encapsulate what it means to be an American. Now when I say American I’m not talking about the traditional flag waver in movies like Armageddon or the recent white washed Pearl Harbor. No, I’m talking about the American whose environment and experiences have molded them into whom and what they are now. Let me elaborate, Spike Lee has never shied away from controversial issues in fact he embraces what is taboo in our society and creates films that speaks volumes to the viewer. No matter if you agree or disagree it will lull you in and massage your frontal lobes until you open your mind. Enter 25th Hour the best movie of 2002 and next to Do the Right Thing his greatest movie ever (yeah I said it!).

The Movie

25th Hour is a living, breathing film, in other words it has a soul. When last years crop of movies were busy pretending 9/11 didn’t happen (i.e. Columbia pictures deleted a scene from Spiderman that involved the World Trade Center), 25th Hour on the other hand deals with the tragedy head on and reflects a New York post 9/11; the fear, the hatred it’s all there painted on the faces of the story’s characters. We join the main character of 25th Hour, Monty (played brilliantly by Edward Norton) as he seeks closure on his last day as a free man.


Here comes lunch.

You see Monty is a drug dealer who gets caught with the tools of his trade and is now out on bail thanks to his Father played by Brian Cox (X-Men 2) putting up his bar as bail. What makes 25th Hour a phenomenal film is the cast’s amazing chemistry and Spike Lee’s sure handed direction. Each scene effectively shows Monty’s relationship between his friends, loved ones, and associates.


Barry Pepper (left) stealing another scene from Norton.

His friends are Frank played by Barry Pepper (Saving Private Ryan) the “Cowboy” stock trader who currently resides in the 99 percentile of all bachelors in NY. Jacob played by Philip Seymour Hoffman (Boogie Nights) is the private school teacher whose frailty and naivety cause him to be placed in Frank’s 62nd percentile (of all bachelors in NY). Like Don Cheadle did to Denzel Washington in Devil in a Blue Dress, Barry Pepper chews up every scene with fellow actor Edward Norton (American History X) in what is one of the most overlooked supporting roles of last year. While Hoffman’s role is a little more subdued his performance is exceptional as usual and the scenes between him and Anna Paquin (The Piano), all in the same breath nail bitingly fun and shocking.

The loved ones consist of Monty’s Girlfriend Naturelle played by Rosario Dawson (He Got Game) is more or less a thankless role she isn’t given much to work with, but manages to utilize every moment on screen. Her performance is a quiet one; Dawson’s eyes speak of the tension that exists between her and Monty, from one stare we can understand the desperation that is just beneath her surface. Brian Cox is Monty’s father James Brogan a recovering alcoholic who like Monty is examining his life to figure out where, when, why and how it all went wrong.


Naturelle

The associates (Russian Mob) are Monty’s business partners on his last night as a free man throw a going away for 7 years party. The party sequence puts the talent of the cast and crew on full display; from Spike’s pacing to Director of Photography’s Rodrigo Prieto’s (8 Mile) camerawork no stone is left unturned and the music provided by DJ Dusk (DJ Cipha Sounds) is utterly hypnotic (see scene thirteen entitled Jake the Snake for the Jamaican Band Cymande’s Bra).

This ultimately boils down to a story about choices. We make choices everyday in our lives and whether we know it or not these choices can have a profound effect on our lives, 25th Hour takes this notion and examines the choices made by Monty and others to fantastic results. This is without a doubt one of Spike Lee’s greatest works, if only because he has taken the themes so often used in his other films and applied in a refreshingly new way.

Special Features

Hezbollah guerrillas
25th Hour Novel written by David Benioff

There are two commentary tracks on the DVD, The first by Director Spike Lee is a fun, in-depth look into the art of filmmaking, Lee doesn’t hold back he gives the inside scoop on what it took to get the film made and his choices for certain roles and/or shot selections. There are periods of silence from Spike, but overall a great peek into the mind of a legendary filmmaker. The next Commentary track is from the Writer of the 25th Hour Screenplay and Novel David Benioff (Troy). Benioff’s track leans more to the side of characterization; here we learn where the motivation came for the creation of certain characters and also what was left out of the book due to time constraints. It’s a quality track that made me want to go and read the book, if only to know the characters’ back stories.

There are also two featurettes; one is The Evolution of an American Filmmaker, which is the usual promotional fluff. You know where they do 2 minute interviews and everyone praises Spike Lee for being a great director, adding Martin Scorsese was a nice touch still it’s derivative and space on the DVD could have been utilized better. The next featurette is Ground Zero a tribute to the heroes of 9/11 actually is extra footage from the clean up of Ground Zero, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a tribute, but the use of Terrance Blanchard’s score makes the “tribute” resoundingly beautiful.

Finally we have the deleted scenes (6 total) you can tell these scenes were cut to keep the film length under 2 ½ hours. There is nothing here that will give you more insight into the character, but it's still fun to see the deleted scenes that Spike Lee refers to in his commentary track.

Overall

25th Hour is a worthy addition to anyone’s DVD collection. Spike Lee and others are all on top of their game with this film and the special features are enough to warrant repeat viewings. This movie is an instant classic and represents the minute good that is capable of coming out of Hollywood.


What's your favorite Spike Lee movies? Send me your thoughts and opinions: rame@geoclan.com

 

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