The clock is ticking on Monty Brogan's freedom--in 24 hours he goes to prison for seven long years. Once a king of Manhattan, Monty is about to say goodbye to the life he knew--a life that opened doors in New York's swankiest clubs but also alienated him from the people closest to him. In his last day on the outside, Monty tries to reconnect with his father, who's never given up on his son, and gets together with his two closest friends from the old days, Jacob and Slaughtery. Also in the mix is his girlfriend, Naturelle, who (or might not) have been the one who tipped off the cops. Monty's not sure of much these days. But with time running out, there are a lot of choices to be made.
Spike Lee's movie sets the story of a convicted drug dealer's last night of freedom against the backdrop of post-9/11 New York, and while the story doesn't entirely cohere or mesh with the setting, the film works as a lovely, moving succession of moods, sounds and images. (Terence Blanchard's gorgeous score helps a lot.) Edward Norton, as Monty Brogan, the prison-bound dealer, has a scrappy, mercurial intelligence, and the work of the supporting cast (especially Brian Cox as Monty's father, a retired fireman; Rosario Dawson as Monty's girlfriend; and Barry Pepper as one of his childhood friends) is a reminder of how generous Mr. Lee can be with actors. The final sequence one of Mr. Lee's signature flights of invention in an otherwise naturalistic film is a crazy, moving evocation of the absurdity and tenacity of the American Dream. — A. O. Scott
2002-12-19 | A. O. Scott | Read the New York Times Review of 25th Hour