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 be thrown away over a simple mistake. I partly blame Simon West’s 1997 classic Con Air, a film I’ve considered my 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 by many, but I guess that’s what makes 25th Hour such an engaging and powerful film despite its at times weak and flimsy delivery.
Cameron Poe was a hero, damn it!
25th Hour follows Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a fairly large and successful drug dealer during his last night of freedom before serving a seven year sentence after being busted. The film explorers 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 honest answers, frank conversations, and compassion for his friends makes him arguably the most likable and realistic character of the film, one you become magnetized by when he’s on screen.
It’s not just the performances that enhance 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, all of the film’s stars aren’t on the same level of performance quality with some delivering subpar performances, especially 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 that while she’s good, she’s 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 be anything greater than what an 11-year-old is capable of portraying.
Sorry Anna, but I think you peaked at 11.
The chemistry between characters in the film just seemed off. Maybe that’s not enough to some to constitute another beer, but I just couldn’t bring myself to give this film only two. While great performances are delivered from most 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.
“Wait, we still live inBrooklyn… where’s your accent?”
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 to the entire nearly two and a 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 knock back a few beers to.
Bonus Drinking Game
Take a drink: every time you debate the legitimacy of Norton’s goatee.
Take a drink: every time you hear the word “fuck.”
Drink a shot: every time the Russian immigrant makes a funny.