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EDWARD NORTON IN 25TH HOUR W/ PHILIP SEYMOUR HOFFMAN

year: 2002 rating: ***
Blaming director Spike Lee for making a film in which the soundtrack is almost louder than the dialogue, providing a misleading aura that something incredibly intense is about to happen at any given moment, would be like knocking Martin Scorsese for the use of excessive violence: only the latter is far more intriguing and befitting the plot... But let’s give Spike some credit for this particularly edgy joint…   

In 25TH HOUR, Edward Norton’s Monty Brogan is one of the nicest guys you’ll ever meet. Even before the opening credits he saves the life of a really angry dog that has been dumped and, bloodied-up and close to death, is all fangs and noisy drama…

Thus the veil lifts to a post 911 New York, and much like a Spaghetti Western or even a Mad Max venture, Monty is a wandering loner in a city of (partial) ruins… yet he’s not entirely alone...

With a newly reformed mutt he visits his friend Jacob, a teacher at the Catholic school he had attended in the past, thus providing the late Philip Seymour Hoffman one of his more subtle, low-key performances. Despite being one man’s odyssey, the movie isn’t really about a singular character, cutting back and forth between three friends also including an intensely unlikable Barry Pepper as Frank, who works in a makeshift office as a Wall Street stockbroker, his fancy apartment shadowing Ground Zero...

During one scene, while Frank and Jacob are discussing Monty while overlooking the ghost of the World Trade Center… Possible symbolism aside, this conversation is important because their best friend doesn’t exactly play by the rules… 

Monty is a drug dealer who winds up busted by the DEA, and has an entire day and night before being incarcerated for seven years, a melancholy journey in which to say goodbye to friends, family, and especially his lover, Rosario Dawson’s sexy and down home stripper, Naturelle… Yet the story, leading to this pivotal point, may sporadically grate on the nerves…

In what’s probably the most memorable scene, Monty stares into a restroom mirror, shouting “f--- you” to everyone he's got it in for: ranging from Italians to blacks to Bush and Chaney to Jesus Christ himself, all being shown in quick visualized snippets...

Pepper, Norton and Hoffman toast
One might sense there’s more author intrusion, or perhaps the director trying too hard to be controversial, than a genuinely personal frustration on Monty’s part… It almost seems like he's on the verge of saying, "Are you talkin' to me? I'm the only one standing here..." at any given moment...

Although, despite being somewhat forced and overboard, this jarring montage delves into the frantic mind of a character that is only likable on the outside.

The best and most important part has all the characters, including Jacob’s flirtatious jailbait student, banded together at a noisy bar: While Frank, Jacob and Naturelle tie loose ends, Monty... who has mere hours until being locked up... is practically forgotten until an intense scene with a backroom Russian mafia… Here we get to know how tough our man really is: Discovering the moment of truth in more ways than one.

25th HOUR has a slow build up that gets more interesting as it goes, leading to a bombastic clash between the main characters... But the ending, although visually stylistic and poetically written, packs too much dialogue for the senses: An ambiguously dream-like sequence where Monty’s father narrates what could happen if his son doesn’t chose jail…

While there’s intrigue to whether the character will do his time or split town, it would be difficult to sit through this part a second or third time. As for the rest of the movie, with so many ingredients constantly being thrown into a boiling pot, it can only get better with each viewing. 
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1 comment:

  1. Another great review. I was pretty surprised by how much I liked this movie. Norton, Hoffman (who I will always think of when I think of the movie HAPPINESS) are great. I had forgotten that Barry Pepper was in this movie as well. I've only ever seen it the one time in a movie theater. I'd definitely watch it again.

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