(Originally written May 19, 2007)
Director Spike Lee is at his best when he is upfront and direct. Many parts of this film, however, suffer from his inability to tie all the elements of the story together. Most of this film is fantastic, with Edward Norton playing a drug dealer who has one last day before he carries out a seven-year sentence in prison. The film begins slowly, moving along without a genuine sense of purpose. The film, however, turns around starting with Norton yelling in front of a mirror in which he curses everything and everyone, blaming them for the situation he has gotten himself into. The scene is the first sign of director Lee’s personal voice coming through, simultaneously exposing the prejudices of the character and the injustices that exist in our society. The film works best when it deals with Norton struggling with his demons and realizing that he has ruined his life through the choices he has made. The ending is absolutely beautiful, a sequence that depicts a fantasy of being able to start a new life, running away from the past. It is a film hauntingly depicts the effects of incarceration without ever showing a prison. The film does sometimes wander and find itself unnecessarily lost in distracting subplots. Perhaps the most frustrating of these involves Phillip Seymour Hoffman as a high school teacher infatuated with a 17-year-old student of his. The implications of this scenario are never really developed and they take away from the power of the story of Norton’s character. Regardless, the film is very good and proof that Spike Lee is still making quality films into the 21st century.