Spike Lee puts some shine on an old bromide, namely a diabolical bank heist and a local sleuth with a skeleton in his closet. What freshens up this Manhattan take is a (mostly masked) Clive Owen as the mastermind thief and a smartass Denzel Washington as his detective-negotiator adversary. The story gets stylish boost from Jodie Foster, a murky operator working on behalf of the bank’s shady owner, patrician Christopher Plummer. Lee milks a fine hour from his downtown Manhattan caper, or the time it takes to deliver the “perfect robbery,” hint at the secret agenda, and deliver the details of amoral compromise.
The ever-slick Washington is always at home with Lee, but the cat-and-mouse game depends on the goings-on in the bank. All’s well until the robbery’s purpose is laid out and the tension broken. After that, Lee’s characters lose steam. The largely predictable wrap-up lets down the promise of the premise. But make no mistake, this is still superior and entertaining filmmaking.