Spike Lee proves he’s still got game in this nail-biting ride through a man’s last night of freedom before long-term incarceration. Based on a flawed David Benioff novel (Lee makes its story more than the sum of its parts), it follows Monty Brogan (Ed Norton), a Brooklyn dealer who’s trying to enjoy what time he’s got left. But the demands of friends, family, foes and girlfriend (Rosario Dawson) mean he’s pressurised up to the last poignant seconds.
Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman are contrastingly brilliant as his buddies, one a macho shark, the latter a meek teacher with a crush on student Anna Paquin. And Brian Cox, as Brogan’s distressed dad, has never been better, narrating a bravura climactic fantasy sequence. Lee lends paranoia to the personal, and poetry to the public?the now-legendary shots overlooking Ground Zero, though in themselves undramatised, may go down in cinematic history. As may Norton’s incendiary, no-prisoners, into-the-mirror rant against, well, everybody and everything. The twist being, he’ll miss them all when he’s inside. Superb.