Edward Norton delivers with '25th Hour'

    “”25th Hour,”” the latest Spike Lee joint, poses the question: Can you change your whole life in a day? The film answers this question by following Monty (Edward Norton) on his last day of freedom. The entire film takes place in the 25 hours before Monty is taken upstate for seven years on a drug conviction. The film’s first 24 hours are spent calling everything into question. “”25th Hour”” presents an epiphany as brilliant and shocking as the film itself.

    Photo Courtesy of Touchstone Pictures

    It is difficult to say what is best about the film. The script comes from freshman screenwriter David Benioff and provides brilliant Tarentino-esque dialogue throughout. The interplay is delivered via an ensemble cast comprised of some of Hollywood’s most unappreciated actors. Norton plays a hybrid of his character from “”Rounders”” and “”American History X.”” While the film doesn’t show Norton going directions that he hasn’t gone before, it is difficult to think of a more fitting actor for the part. Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Barry Pepper play Norton’s long-time best friends and provide some of the film’s most moving exchanges. Rosario Dawson and Anna Paquin play the only female roles. Dawson is Norton’s girlfriend, while Paquin (who is best-known as Rogue from “”X-Men””) plays a high school student and Hoffman’s love interest, who is as provocative as she is loquacious. Perhaps the most recognizably brilliant supporting role comes via Brian Cox, who plays Monty’s father. Lee reworks his father-son issues, which were first seen in “”He Got Game,”” through Norton and Cox in a wholly more effective manner.

    Spike Lee takes this already brilliant concoction and infuses his visceral understanding of New York to turn what would have been a great film into a masterpiece. The film deals very deliberately with issues like 9/11, racism, hate and empathy that most directors dare not touch. Lee avoids singling anyone out in offense by blatantly offending everyone, all with good reason. Besides his special ability to make the taboo beautiful, Lee’s work in front of and behind the camera is as successful as it has always been.

    By interweaving his thematic purpose and his audiovisuals, he is able to go from poignant realism to lucid dream sequences without a wasted frame. Lee has never before so effectively toyed with his audience. Those who find themselves traditionally annoyed with Lee films should give the director another chance for “”25th Hour.””

    Produced in part by Tobey Maguire (who does not appear in the film), “”25th Hour”” shows Lee dawning the sophistication of Scorsese with a perspective as unique and fresh as it was in his directorial debut, “”Do the Right Thing.”” Don’t pass on this Spike Lee joint.

    25th Hour

    *****

    Starring Edward Norton and Rosario Dawson

    In theaters now

    Rated R

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