The 25th Hour (2002), or Oh, What A Difference A Day Makes

1 04 2009

What would you do today if you knew that tomorrow you would be going away to jail for seven years? Me ,personally, I would probably go to all the payday loan brokers in town, borrow three to six hundred dollars from each chain, and take Brenna for one last night on the town (if she would have me; I must have done something pretty heinous to get seven years). I would write my mother something to remember me by in case I am shanked in prison. I would ask my father to take me to the big house, and during the drive we would discuss the meaning of it all. It would be a pretty solemn affair. Oh, and I might kill a guy on the sly just to keep my prison cred high on the first day. But that’s neither here nor there.

Today’s film, The 25th Hour, puts its main character in just such a situation. Monty Brogan is a  New Yorker who has been busted for pushing drugs, and is facing seven years in Otisville Prison. He has one last day before he goes to upstate New York to face his punishment, so he decides to spend it with his friends, his father, and his girlfriend. The movie is about his odyssey on this one final day of freedom, and just what happened that led him to that point in his life. He muses on his anger, his misplaced trust in people he thought were his friends, and his regrets on the wasting of his prime. Throughout the day, his lifelong friends Jacob and Frank help him cope with the situation, trying to console him and give him advice for what he might face. His girlfriend Naturelle is sweet and nurturing, comforting him even in their final moments together. And his father is supportive, although he partly blames himself for where his son has ended up. At the end of this 24 hours, will Monty be able to find peace within himself? Can his loved ones do anything to help him on his journey to the life he made for himself? And will he even decide to go to prison, or will he just go on the lamb?

An impressive plot meets a talented director here, creating something that is both heartfelt and remorseful. Adapted from the book by David Benioff, it is a very real, very honest picture that is being made here. The 25th Hour is an elegy of the normal man. Monty is a character who is a good person with all the best intentions for everyone in his life, but his decision to pedal drugs winds up costing him everything. He wasn’t trying to hurt anybody, and he is not in any way a villain. He is just a normal man whose circumstances put him against the law, and he is spending his last night of liberty coming to terms with that. And just as interesting are the situations his loved ones find themselves in. Everyone around him feels guilty about allowing him to continue his illicit behavior, and now that they are about to lose him the guilt comes to a head in various ways. Monty’s father James is an especially intriguing character, with troubles a mile wide and just as long that irk him on what must be a daily basis.

I am not a huge fan of Spike Lee. Granted, his films can be challenging at times, and that is just what needs to be done to shake up a complacent moviegoing audience. But, in challenging the status quo, sometimes I feel that he goes too far in his films to shake things up and ends up sounding just like the people that he satirizes and/or condemns. This film, however, is one of his better works. He obviously loves New York City and its people, and it is in a way a tribute to the people of that lovely town, a warm embrace for an injured community (this film takes place soon after September 11th). He also seems to have an emotional connection with all the characters, as this might be his most emotionally charged film since Do The Right Thing. Whatever it is, I enjoyed his direction here, and I would like to see more releases like this from him instead of lukewarm flicks like Bamboozled and She Hate Me.

Decent cast here. Edward Norton is pretty good as Monty, but I felt he could have done more as an actor instead of letting the plot dictate every single reaction from him. For a take-charge actor like Norton, Monty doesn’t seem to real sometimes, more like a product to keep the plot moving. Otherwise, he put on a good show, and I will always be up for an Edward Norton movie. The real star for me is Barry Pepper as his friend Frank. I keep waiting for this performer to make it big, but maybe the stink of Battlefield Earth will never fully wash off him. What a shame, too, because he is extremely compelling as a friend who is not looking forward to seeing Monty go away and having to face his incomplete life alone. Brian Cox as Monty’s father and Phillip Seymour Hoffman as Monty’s friend Jacob also should be noted for their gold standard performances. Rosario Dawson has a good motivation as Naturelle, but she doesn’t really go for it like I thought she would. She seems reserved, and maybe I misinterpreted it, but it felt like she was a bit limp here and there.

Still, a Spike Lee movie with real drive is something you can’t really miss up. I think this is an overlooked film. We all need a little regret tinged with our drama, and this is a brilliant journey through a land of palpable, extremely human regret. It’s worth a look, so check it out sometime this week. I give The 25th Hour 7 1/2 unfortunate drug dealers out of 10.

Tomorrow is the PSA, where I dive head-first into Showgirls!




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