“The 25th Hour” is one of those films that some how flies under the radar. I am not sure why it never received the respect that it deserved. It is one of the best films directed by Spike Lee. It contains powerful performances from the likes of Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson and Brian Cox. The screenplay by David Benioff, based on his own novel, portrays these characters as real people with real conflicts.
Norton plays Monty, who was recently convicted of drug dealing. This film shows the last day of his life before he is to report to prison for seven years. We follow him as he has a painful dinner with his father, has a few drinks at a club with his friends, works out issues with his long term girlfriend and settles a few lingering problems with his former associates. Sounds pretty basic but it is a lot more complex than that.
Monty’s life long friends, Frank (Barry Pepper), and Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), have their own problems going on as well as being conflicted about what is happening to Monty. Frank is a Wall Street trader who is getting too carried away with his work. Jacob is a university professor who is getting a little too close to one of his students. Each are very different characters but the performances go so well that we do believe that they have been close friends for years.
Monty we learn through flashbacks, came up as a small time dealer, who partnered with the Russian mob and became a major player. We see the day that he was busted during a search of his home by the DEA. They seem to know what they are looking for and where to look for it. Did someone rat on him? We will find out.
But the movie isn’t about that it. It is about a man whose time is running out, and the pain and frustration that comes with it. Monty is angry, not just at the fact that he is going to jail, but at the fact that his life could of gone down different paths. His anger boils over at one point as he basically tells every nationality in the city of New York to go fuck themselves. He is talking to the mirror in the bathroom during this tirade. It basically ends with him angry at himself.
“The 25th Hour” came out a year after the attacks on September 11, 2001. This was the first film at the time to not shy away from that tragic event. Spike Lee gives us a few paralyzing shots of ground zero as it is still being cleaned up. One of the characters even lives across the street and mentions that Bin Laden could drop another building down the road and he still will not move.
Spike Lee is a director who has really sort of polarized movie goers. I think that is because he does not play by the rules, which is what I love about him. I may not enjoy every movie he makes but I will always watch anything he directs. Here he portrays a handful of characters a honestly as he can. There is no filtering the dialogue or shying away from real world events. If you have not seen this film then you should because it is about as raw as it gets for American films.