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Movie Review: 25th Hour

Story: What would you do with the last 24 hours of freedom if you were about to go to jail for seven years? That is essentially what this film is about.

Monty Brogan, we are to believe, is a good drug dealer. He isn't like the bad drug dealers and thugs we are introduced to in the film. Our drug dealer has a retired fireman for a father, two nice, loyal old friends from childhood, a beautiful girlfriend and he saves a beaten dog from the street. So how did he get into this predicament? My take is that he was greedy and a criminal. Director Spike Lee and screenwriter David Benioff (based on his book) attempt to come up with excuses to explain his behavior. Yada, yada, yada. I say, he sold drugs, he got caught and he's going to jail.

There are some terrific equal opportunity politically incorrect Spike Lee rants (as in his Do the Right Thing) with a clear love of New York City, some great neighborhood shots and a native understanding of the streets and the people who live here. Lee also depicts Ground Zero without all the flourishes and usual patriotic banter. It is the first film I have seen that shows scenes of the area up close with realistic conversations about and around the disaster.

The film has lots of flaws and it is very uneven. Should you see it? If you are a Spike Lee fan or a New York junkie-for sure. Everyone else should wait for Cable.

Acting: Edward Norton is always worth watching but his tortured, soul searching portrayals are getting a bit stale. Philip Seymour Hoffman is one of my favorites but he has played this social maladroit more successfully before. Barry Pepper is very effective as the stock trader friend. I was most interested in his character and wanted to know more about him to the exclusion of the others.

Predilections: I hate drug dealers. I love New York.

Critters: One gorgeous dog named Doyle, who has a big part.

Food: Chinese food (and a discussion of the etiquette of eating Chinese food), steak, baked potatoes, lots of beer and booze.

Visual Art: A large film poster of Cool Hand Luke.

Blatant Product Placement: Soloman Brothers, the Century 21 Department Store at Ground Zero and the New York Yankees.

Soundtrack: I absolutely HATED this soundtrack. Soundtracks should accompany - not dominate. There were times that I could not hear the dialog.

Opening Titles: I was not paying any attention to the opening credits as they were superimposed over different angled shots of the City at night during the Tribute in Lights last winter.

Theater Audience: About ten others.

Squirm Scale: An opening shot of the sounds of a dog being beaten did not sit well with me. Our hero rescues this dog and sets up the scenario that he is a good drug dealer with redeeming qualities.

Predictability Level: I did not know where it was going but didn't really care either.

Oscar Worthy: No.

Nit Picking: There is a visually powerful scene between Pepper and Hoffman that overlooks Ground Zero at night while the cleanup was still in progress. It is supposed to be taking place in Pepper's apartment but I knew they were standing in an American Express office at the World Financial Center. I know every inch of that area and it bothered me. Between that knowledge of the location and the blaring soundtrack I was very distracted.

Big Screen or Rental: Rental. For some other Spike Lee films, how about: The Original Kings of Comedy, Summer of Sam, 4 Little Girls, Girl 6, Get On the Bus, Clockers, Crooklyn, Hoop Dreams, Malcolm X, Jungle Fever, Mo' Better Blues, Do the Right Thing, School Daze and She's Gotta Have It.

Length: 2 hours and an unnecessary 15 minutes.

LOBO HOWLS: 5 (one for each borough of New York City)