25th Hour (IMDB) (Netflix)
Tomorrow, drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) goes up the river for seven years, but today he's saying goodbye to his friends, one of whom probably ratted him out--perhaps his girlfriend (Rosario Dawson). He's also more than a little doubtful of his longevity as an inmate. This is the first post-9/11 New York film, directed by Spike Lee, from David Benioff's adaptation of his novel. Who better to do it than Spike?
I haven't seen all of his films, but this is the best of what I have seen--less self-conscious and less confrontational, and the better for it. There aren't that many twists in the plot--this is pretty much about a guy who's going to prison in the morning and doing what most people would do in that situation--spend time with intimates, find someone to take care of his dog, have a meal with his Dad. So hold the action, go heavy on the subtext and characterization, watch out for the unmarked flashbacks, and add a couple of Spike Lee Joint side orders, which are wonderful monologues/montages by Norton and Brian Cox (as the father). These two sequences (the second in particular) lifted what would have been a very competent-but-unremarkable genre piece into something more mature, more profound, more...poignant, taking on a New Yorker's love/hate for the city, and even more affecting, the road that could easily have been taken. As the audience member behind me noted, it's "heavy," but not exactly a downer.