Inside Man, by Albert W. Vogt III

In Inside Man (2006), there is a saying that basically amounts to all bad deeds stink and will not go unpunished, eventually. As a Christian, I believe that ultimate judgment lies with God. There is a certain comfort in that sentiment. As far as our human justice system is concerned, I hope that rather than being punitive, it is instead reformative. That is another key aspect of my belief system: that everyone is redeemable. Confession truly does help in this case. Unfortunately, not everyone believes in these things, and neither does the law get it right every time. Just peruse the documentary series on Netflix some time, if you are tired of watching the current news cycle for more proof, of course. Sometimes there are acts that can be addressed relatively discreetly and can correct age-old wrongs without too many others being the wiser. Inside Man is one of these examples.

Inside Man starts with mastermind Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) looking directly at the camera and explaining the plot right off the bat. In short, he has planned the perfect bank robbery. In this film, “perfect” means many things. When thinking about taking from a bank, you might believe that a well done heist would involve a ton of stolen money and getting away scot-free. The second part is definitely true here, but the first does not work as you might expect. Dalton and his associates barricade themselves inside the first bank started by Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), the institution that is the foundation of a fortune amassed by the financier. Dalton’s group take hostage everyone inside the branch, force them all to dress exactly alike, and begin digging. Digging? Meanwhile, the New York Police Department set up a perimeter outside the bank and bring in Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) and his partner, Detective Bill Mitchell (Chiwetel Ejiofor), as hostage negotiators. Yet all the pained dialog between Dalton and Detective Frazier is a delaying tactic for the robbers as they construct a cell behind some shelves for their leader, and the digging is for Dalton to do his business in (if you know what I mean). All the while they open the vault but do not touch the money. Their real goal is to make it out of the bank with the documents that prove Arthur’s money came from doing business with the Nazis during World War II. There are some diamonds there as well, which they take. Dalton’s partners make it out with the rest of the hostages because they dress like them, and make it out in the confusion caused by the police threatening to storm the bank to end the situation. Dalton quietly bides him time in his little cell, and then surreptitiously slips out the front door a week later.

From that short synopsis of Inside Man, you might be saying to yourself that there is a piece of this puzzle missing. How can a group of bank robbers hope to expose somebody who not only profited by doing business with Germany’s fascist regime, but also betrayed Jewish friends destined for concentration camps in the process? Particularly when doing so could bring themselves unwanted attention? That is where Detective Frazier comes in. Dalton’s intent is never to do harm, though he does rough up a few people as window dressing. Their real target (besides taking the jewels) is Arthur Case all along, and once Dalton realizes that Detective Frazier is solely interested in the truth as well, he knows the cop will investigate the matter. He leaves a particularly large ring behind in a secret safety deposit box with a note saying, “Follow the ring,” which leads Detective Frazier into Arthur’s office where he confronts the bank owner with his theory about its origin. His next move is to meet the mayor (Peter Kybart) and suggest that he give the United States government war crimes division a call.

Even though Inside Man is ultimately about a bank heist, and crime is never something I can fully advocate, the ending is satisfying. Granted, you do not get to see Arthur get his true comeuppance, but seeing his crestfallen face as Detectives Frazier and Mitchell leave his office tell you that he knows his days of attempting to buy a good reputation are numbered. I do not know what God will do with people like Arthur. People like to guess, to be sure, and I suppose there is a certain comfort that comes with thinking that he would suffer eternal damnation. And even if his crimes never came to light, God knows. The rest is in His hands. Still, one way or another, these things do eventually become known.

Inside Man is rated R, and there are some rough parts in it. It is minimally violent, but the rating comes mostly from the language in it. There is some racial moments in it too, and one of the tougher scenes is when one of the hostages, a Sikh named Vikram Walia, is released with the robbers’ list of demands. The police automatically assume he is an Arab because of his turban and believe he has a bomb. There are other instances in it of racial profiling as well. Finally, there is a part of the plot where one of the female accomplices has to explain her cup size and defend herself as a suspect. Nonetheless, the film is as clever of a plot as they come, and there is the added bonus of seeing a secret Nazi collaborator exposed.

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