When I saw Denzel Washington sportin' an odd-looking and unflattering pencil-thin mustache in his role as Detective Keith Frazier, I knew I would like this movie. Denzel does his best work when he doesn't look like a leading man. Muss up the man a bit by giving him a cheap-ass hair-cut and some thrift-store clothes, then stand back and watch the magic. And he delivers magic in Inside Man, which co-stars Clive Owen and is directed by Spike Lee.
Keith Frazier is a less-than-angelic detective who happens to get called in to negotiate the release of hostages being held by Owens' character, Dalton Russell. Russell is a smart bank robber who seems to have devised the perfect crime. Frazier becomes the negotiator by default, because the real negotiator is on vacation. The result is explosive action that is clever and believable. Spike Lee tells a great story in what is one of his more mainstream flicks; this movie isn't typical mainstream, though, in what it delivers. It is smart, inventive, well acted and most importantly, it never sells out. The characters remain true to themselves and the plot throughout.
Inside Man is a terrific movie, one that keeps you interested, makes you think and lets you enjoy some popcorn all at the same time. ***1/2