25th Hour Review

I’m just not sure about this movie.

One one hand it is a good movie filled with great characters (though none of them original), on the other hand it seems like a poorly conceived and maybe even exploitative tribute to the World Trade Center disaster.

The story of the movie is that Monty (Edward Norton) has been convicted of a crime and must set the relationships in his life straight before he heads off to jail. It’s a great premise pulled off fairly well. The movie moves a bit slow, but is filled with generally good dialog that seems to keep you interested.

The actors all did a good job. Philip Seymour Hoffman played his standard character, but did it well. Edward Norton did a great job as Monty. And the movie was well directed by Spike Lee.

My real problem is that this is the way that this movie seemingly exploits the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and particularly the Word Trade Center disaster. This is a movie that was adapted from a book that was released in early 2001. Well before the 9/11 terrorist attacks. But this movie makes a point of squeezing in scenes of the ruins and the tributes while adding nothing relating to the disaster to the plot line whatsoever. It just seems exploitative to me.

In one scene, Monty’s two friends, Frank and Jacob are standing in a window in Frank’s apartment that overlooks the World Trade Center ruins for three minutes. During this time the talk about the sight like middle-aged Bevis and Butthead would.

While I don’t think the subject should be ignored, and I certainly don’t think it should ever be forgotten, it seems as though it was just paraded through this movie without reason.

So in the end, after the movie was over I was conflicted. I liked the story, but I felt dirty for paying for something that I, in at least some respects, felt exploited the victims of 9/11.

Click here for other, probably better reviews of 25th Hour.

5 Comments

Although the premise itself is intriguing enough (what would you do if you only had 24 hours of “life”/freedom left?), 25th hour’s potential to fully engage is marred by some inadequacies in plot and character development. Monty ends up being one of the least interesting characters in the “story”, if it can be called that. Essentially, he is a drug dealer who gets caught after being ratted out by his partner (a stereotypical fat Russian/Ukranian guy with a laughable wardrobe and lines about “bootiful american goils” – please…

While there are definitely some highlights (Philip Seymour Hoffman’s Jakob in general, Monty’s encounter with a jonesing addict), the bulk of the film is essentially plotless. Nothing really engaging comes of the premise. Situations between characters are not paid off in a satisfying and/or believable way. Worse yet, the film relies on pure sentimentality surrounding post 9/11 New York to make up for its lack of true emotion.

The fantasy escape sequence near the end of the film ends up playing out as comic rather than tragic, due to the inclusion of every possible relationship cliche.

Sometimes strong acting cannot rescue the storyline, which seems trite and overdone (his involvement with his drug-czar boss is beyond cliche and so, uninteresting and unbelievable.) The reality and psychological torture of Monty’s “blowing it” (wasting his life)is never fully explored and so his character is unsatisfying. (THe “Fight Club”-like sequence with his old friend the wall-street broker is not only a thinly veiled attempt to capitalize on that film’s raw appeal, but also insulting given the “make me ugly so i dont get raped my first night in prison” motivation.

Overall, expected much more from Spike Lee — rote new-york sentimentality does not make a weak plot and thinly/steretypically drawn characters play out as worthy of deep thought.

I disagree. I found 25th Hour to overall be a very good film. Very religious, very “Last Temptation of Christ”. I particularly how we aren’t really made to feel sorry for Monty, or really any of the characters in the movie. It’s about redemption, but that’s not forgiveness. Maybe they all deserved their sad, sorry lot in life.

25th Hour is a dig at zero tolerance laws in New York. Monty I believe is the most likeable character in the movie. His friend, Francis, is not essentially what society would see as a nice guy. Either is Jacob, and this is only highlighted by the kiss he shares with his student. Any teacher who did that would be tarred and feathered. And yet, Monty, the nice one who saves injured dogs and is pleasant, is the one going to jail for 15 years. The movie makes no mistake about it, not 15 years, but a life sentence. Monty will never be the same because he made a mistake and chose a profession that essentially did what both his friends are doing. Took advantage of other people. Francis the stockbroker and Jacob the teacher who is overcome with lust for one of his students. The reference to the world trade centre was not exploitative, it was part of demonstrating how Francis benefits from the misfortune of others. He got the apartment cheap because it was next to the ruins. This movie gets at least 4 stars from me. I thought it was both thought provoking and intensely well acted. Another great Spike Lee film.

I follow Grazie: great movie, deep psychological story and lovely carefully made details. A movie with that bit more to make it special. I loved it. Spike Lee did it.

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