Spike Lee's 25TH HOUR, about the last day of freedom for Monty Brogan (Edward
Norton), is a rich tapestry of life that contains more memorable performances
than you can count. Opening in 2003 in most parts of the country, it is counted
for Academy purposes as a 2002 film, and, since it is one of last year's best
films, one hopes that it will garner several awards. In addition to Lee's and
Norton's work, Oscar consideration should be given to Philip Seymour Hoffman's
supporting role and to Terence Blanchard's music.
Without any of his usual racial polemics, Lee weaves a gripping tale about a
personable guy, Monty, whom we first meet when he is befriending a nearly dead
dog, who bites him in the process. Monty is "going to hell for seven years,"
after being convicted of drug dealing on schoolyards, no less. Like an addict
who couldn't quit, Monty liked the money and the life it gave him, including a
beautiful and supportive girlfriend, Naturelle Riviera (Rosario Dawson). In a
flashback we see that he met Naturelle when he was dealing drugs at her school.
Very careful to ascertain that she was eighteen, Monty apparently worried more
about statutory rape charges than he did prosecution for dealing weed.
On Monty's last night before his dad (Brian Cox) has to take him to prison, he
goes with his friends to a nightclub owned by some of the Ukrainians who used to
be his suppliers. In the party are Jakob Elinsky (Hoffman) and Francis Xavier
"Frank" Slaughtery (Barry Pepper), two of Monty's best friends from school, as
well as Naturelle and Mary D'Annunzio (Anna Paquin). With sad irony, Monty
refers to Jakob, Frank and himself as the "Dead End Kids."
Mary, a year below the age of consent in New York, where the story is set, is at
the club because she conned Jakob, her high school English teacher, into letting
her join their party. In one of many potentially explosive stories, we learn
that Jakob has a serious crush on Mary, something that scares him to death.
Paquin is so wonderful in the role that you wish that she had been cast in the
remake of LOLITA that was done a few years ago.
Frank has his own story and issues as well. A bachelor with a self-proclaimed
ninety-ninth percentile ranking, he reeks overconfidence. When we first meet
him, he is a bond trader who is defying his boss's direct orders and putting a
hundred million dollars of his company's money at risk with a major contrarian
bet on the direction of the week's unemployment numbers. Thinking he has social
skills when he has none, Frank's sole claim to fame is his unfailing bravado.
He is also the one most willing to stand up and tell the others what they don't
want to hear. "Would you go into a Victoria's Secret and ask if they had
children's sizes?" he inquires of Jakob in order to put some sense into his head
about his infatuation with his student.
The small parts are especially well acted. Isiah Whitlock Jr., Tony Devon and
Michael Genet play the three DEA agents who bust Monty. They are funny in an
extremely frightening sort of way.
The story ends in a beautiful and hauntingly ambiguous manner. I left the
theater wondering what would become of them, not only Monty and Naturelle but
everyone. 25TH HOUR is a touching and endearing picture that you won't forget.
25TH HOUR runs 2:14. It is rated R for "strong language and some violence" and
would be acceptable for older teenagers.
Copyright © 2003 Steve Rhodes