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25th Hour

November 14, 2011

For years, perhaps most of my life, somewhere in the depths of my mind I’ve been terrified of the possibility that one day my life will get thrown away over a simple mistake. I partly blame Simon West’s 1997 classic Con Air, a film I’ve considered a favorite since I was ten. Poor Cameron Poe, he was a good guy at the wrong place at the wrong time and imprisoned for nearly a decade all because he attempted to protect his wife from a drunken sleaze and accidentally killed the man. Since Con Air I’ve feared that a late night out drinking will result in me accidentally murdering someone or that a short cut on my way to an exotic destination will plant me in the hands of psychopathic cannibals as seen in The Hills Have Eyes. Perhaps I’m in the minority of paranoid worrywarts who’ve let films shape my reality or maybe my fear is shared among many, but I guess that’s what makes 25th Hour such an engaging and powerful film despite it’s at times weak and flimsy delivery.

25th Hour follows Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a large and successful drug dealer during his last night of freedom before serving a seven-year sentence after being busted. The film explores how Monty and his loved ones, including childhood best friends Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and Frank (Barry Pepper) deal with his punishment as well as Monty’s long term girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson). Director Spike Lee creates an engaging character study that doesn’t just focus on Monty’s struggle but also how those around him are affected by his plight.

25th Hour boasts a cast of well-known and strong performers and the film does a great job of showing off the chops of most its major actors like Hoffman and Norton. However, it’s Pepper that steals the show as the arrogant, fast-talking, Wall Street broker. Pepper oozes yuppie scum as a man who appears to have done a bit too much cocaine the night before and has probably killed a prostitute somewhere down the line yet his frank answers, honest conversations and compassion for his friends makes him arguably the most likable and realistic character of the film that you become magnetized by when on screen. But it’s not just the performances that make the development of the film, its Lee’s direction. Scenes are shot with purpose, the style of the film changes for each character from the slow pans and long takes in scenes between Naturelle and Monty to the sporadic nervous rapid edits of scenes involving Jacob. Lee does a great job of letting his actors do what is natural for them while also doing what’s natural for him as an auteur.

While Lee gets kudos for letting his and his actor’s skills flow, that’s not to say 25th Hour is perfect. The script is at times mediocre at best leading to moments of unnatural dialogue and typical cheesy movie moments. Also most of the cast’s performance skills aren’t on par with its leads resulting in sub par performances especially from Anna Paquin as the 17-year-old “Lolita”, Mary, who captures the affection of Jacob. Now as an admitted True Blood fanatic, I’m very familiar with Paquin’s style of acting and I must admit she’s good but is not Oscar-winning material. She can portray sad, angry and distraught well but when it comes to being natural, seductive and coy her skills don’t seem to equal anything greater than what she did when she was 11 years old.

Much of the chemistry between characters in the film just seemed off. While great performances are delivered from some of the cast, none of them appear to have believable functioning relationships with one another. It’s hard to see why such a blunt brash person like Frank would be best friends with a nervous, timid teacher like Jacob. Also the film goes through lengths to show Monty’s first time meeting the young, beautiful, thick accented Naturelle whose Brooklyn accent vanishes for the rest of the film. Sorry but that’s a major pet peeve of mine.

25th Hour is not fantastic but it’s a damn good film. At times while watching it I could barely hold my eyes open out of shear tiredness and exhausting. Yet I still found the attention to devote it to the entire nearly 2 and half hour long film, a feat that has become fairly difficult for me lately due to the hustle and bustle of life. 25th Hour isn’t gold but it’s still a good enough film to sit back and enjoy.

SEE IT. But no rush.

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