25th Hour

**1/2

Reviewed by: Angus Wolfe Murray

25th Hour
"Benioff is so determined to avoid stereotypes and having to explain the obvious that he assumes too much from the audience."

Everything feels right about 25th Hour until you sit down and watch it. Edward Norton is an inspirational performer; Spike Lee (Do The Right Thing, Malcolm X) is a fascinating yet erratic director; Philip Seymour Hoffman is the best character actor of his generation; Rosario Dawson is better than eye candy and a post 9/11 drugs related scenario, adapted by David Benioff from his highly praised first novel, has the potential to be uncluttered with the detritus of stale clich├ęs.

The problem lies in the concept, as well as the length (135 mins). Monty Brogan (Norton) is a drug dealer, who is about to go down for seven years. Instead of being locked up already, he has 24 hours to sort out his life before reporting at the prison gates. He could run, of course, but can he hide? He could find the person who ratted on him and blow them away. He could make amends with his dad and his old mates from high school and his girl, Naturelle (Dawson).

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He chooses the latter. There are scenes of Oirish solidarity with dad (Brian Cox), who remains loyal and true, despite the lad's line of work. His buddies have moved on. Jacob (Hoffman) is an English teacher at a school where the kids don't listen and Francis (Barry Pepper) has become one of those Wall Street hustlers who work at a frantic speed and have phones glued to their ears. As for Naturelle, she's Puerto Rican and much younger. She loves Monty, with that unreserved passion of innocence, and yet has grown used to the fruits of his spoils.

What do they do? They go to a club, where Jacob bumps into one of his more precocious students (Anna Paquin), who flaunts her sexuality as only insecure teenage femme fatales can, and Monty has a confrontation with a Russian mafia boss, who has no respect for Western niceties. Francis drinks too much and Naturelle waits.

Benioff is so determined to avoid stereotypes and having to explain the obvious that he assumes too much from the audience. Monty appears to be a man of principal, who cares about his girl and his dad and has a conscience, even though he doesn't go to confession. You don't see the other side, except once, when a strung out junkie is told to get lost.

The reunion seems pointless. Francis and Monty are two Irish boyos, who have a history you don't know about. They make ritualistic male bonding noises and hug each other occasionally. Jacob is like a shy 35-year-old virgin, who shouldn't be allowed out alone. What he's doing in a club, full of ravers and half naked girls, can hardly be contemplated.

Ultimately, the question remains, do you care? The answer is related to another question, do you understand? There must be more to this movie than an all-night piss up, chunks of raw dialogue, a dog called Doyle and massive East European thugs who appear to have taken over as gangsters of choice in 21st century New York. The ambiguous ending is the final nail. What is worse, being teased to death, or having your face smashed to pulp by your best friend? It's better not to go there.

Reviewed on: 24 Apr 2003
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A drug dealer Edward Norton has 24 hours to make amends with his high school buddies.
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Jennie Kermode ***1/2

Director: Spike Lee

Writer: David Benioff, based on the novel by David Benioff

Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox, Tony Siragusa, Levan Uchaneishvili, Tony Devon, Misha Kuznetsov, Isiah Whitlock Jr., Michael Genet, Patrice O'Neal, Al Palagonia, Aaron Stanford

Year: 2002

Runtime: 135 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US

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