In Spike Lee's latest joint, 25th Hour, it's almost if he was given the top
three draft picks in a fantasy football equivalent of great young actors.
His first choice is Edward Norton, who stars in this movie as Monty Brogan, a tough-talking New York drug dealer who high rolls his way into an upcoming seven-year prison sentence for possession. His second pick, Phillip Seymour
Hoffman, proves again why there is no better actor out there when it comes
to capturing on-screen the deep inner issues that lay inside our heads.
Playing the role of high school English teacher Jacob Elinsky, Hoffman's
demon in this film, is sexy young student Mary D'Annunzio, played by cuter-than-ever Anna Paquin. Coming in at the three spot is Barry Pepper, who just keeps proving his depth as an actor, film after film. Pepper plays Wall
Street whiz kid Francis Slaughtery, who rolls as high stakes in the
financial arena as Norton's Brogan character does in the drug world.
Friends since childhood, the three men have all arrived at far different
places in their lives, yet they've held tight-knit relationships with each
other despite the avenues taken. Now in their early thirties, each must
come face to face with the consequences of their paths. Brogan's of course
is the most bleak. He has just twenty-four hours before his father, played
by Brian Cox, will come and drive him upstate to begin serving his sentence.
Monty's past is about to all be left behind: his delicious young Puerto
Rican girlfriend, played by the ever-so-becoming Rosario Dawson, the swank
Manhattan apartment, furnished with the top-line leather couch where the
guilty stash was stored, a loyal dog named Doyle that he rescues and
befriends in the opening scene, and most importantly, his friendships with
Jacob and Francis, which he knows may or may not pick back up again after his departure.
Based on the novel by David Benioff, Spike Lee takes us through the last 24 hours of a man facing the reality of losing the next seven years of his
life. Years lost that he assures will steal from him everything that he has
ever gained. Through concise editing that consists of smart cuts and quick
flashes of Brogan's past, combined with a chilling musical score composed by
the great Terence Blanchard, 25th Hour gets us inside the head of Brogan as he faces up to his wrong decisions on his last day as a free man.
While the centerpiece of the film focuses on a man living within the
consequences of himself, the side story of 25th Hour is of New York city
recovering from its own tragedy. Spike Lee, in what is probably the first
film that uses and captures the finished results of downtown NYC post-9/11,
does not hide from bringing the emotions and anger that all New Yorkers live
with into the storyline of the film. In fact, in one of the most important
scenes early on into the movie, Jacob and Francis share a beer together on the window sill of Francis' apartment downtown before meeting Brogan out
for a last going-away party. Outside the window sill is ground zero. The
astonishment on Phillip Seymour Hoffman's face from seeing the ground zero
site for the first time, while having to deal with his best friend's
impending prison sentence is one that only an actor on his high of level can
The one other scene that so deeply conveys Spike Lee's connection between
this story and the city of New York is a moment where Brogan himself comes
to terms with the realization that he will soon have to remove himself from
the only place he's ever known. Looking in the mirror of his father's Irish
bar in Staten Island, he lashes out at just about every ethnicity, race and
gathering of people in NYC; think of it as the updated 2002 version of the
tirade in Do The Right Thing when the blacks attacked the whites, the whites
attacked the Asians, the Asians attacked the Italians, etc., except this
time it was Brogan attacking everybody, until he finally realizes it's only
the guy in the mirror to blame.
In the so-called 25th Hour however, is where this story really achieves its
peak climax. As day breaks and the clock ticks to his prison sentence,
Brogan must reach a point of short-term closure with the people that mean so
much to him. One by one, each of the other characters is impacted. Francis
assures his best friend that he'll be there for him when he gets out; Brogan
replies, "but you won't be there tomorrow...and tomorrow is all that
Source: Brad Oldham, RCA