Volume 96, Issue 78
Tuesday, February 18, 2003

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MOVIE REVIEW: 25th Hour
Norton's career still promising in its 25th Hour

25th Hour
Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson
Directed by: Spike Lee



By Brian Wong
Gazette Staff

Gazette file photo
"I MAY LOOK PRETTY, BUT I'M A BADASS AT HEART!" Norton plays an ex-heroin pusher in Spike Lee's latest flick, 25th Hour.
Not sold on the idea of soft-spoken preppy Edward Norton as an ex-heroin pusher on his way to seven years in the slammer? Well, neither is his character in Spike Lee's 25th Hour – a film that reflects on decisions, regret and the American dream.

Norton plays Monty Brogan, a young man who has a gorgeous girlfriend, a loving father, two loyal best friends and a canine friend named Doyle, who is compassionately saved by Monty in the film's opening sequence.

And of course he throws it all away.

The story begins after the big bust-up. 25th Hour is about how Monty spends that last day of his life as a free man. Not only does he contemplate the inevitable life-altering experience of his upcoming jail term, but Monty is also confused over whether his girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson) is responsible for his capture.

Monty is the kind of guy who gets involved in criminal activities while knowing full well that he's not criminal material; he can do the crime, but he can't do the time, which is why Norton is well-cast in a role that requires a constantly shifting balance of confidence, vulnerability and pure desperation.

Perhaps the scene that will get most people talking is the one in which Monty stands in front of a bathroom mirror and spews forth a lengthy diatribe against a long list of the minority groups that live in New York. Lee creates a stylized montage sequence that builds in intensity, as Monty lashes out against blacks, Indians, Koreans, Italians, gays, Jews and the rich, before giving a defeated, final fuck-you to the person who makes all that hate possible – himself.

It's that kind of thoughtful, moving agony that drives much of the film, which is also aided by the strong performances of Barry Pepper and the always excellent Philip Seymour Hoffman, who plays one of Monty's equally insecure best friends.

But what to make of the film's post-Sept. 11 backdrop? Lee's movie is the first from Hollywood to acknowledge the loss of the Twin Towers, and contains some morbid shots of Ground Zero as the story has Monty's friend Francis owning an apartment that overlooks the crash site.

The backdrop seems to create a parallel between those who attempt to crush the "American dream" and those, like Monty, who seem to be crushing that dream for themselves. In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedy, people like Monty might be left wondering whether the pursuit of that dream is worthy, unaware that they might already be living it. Lee is able to tell this tale without succumbing to preachiness or heavy patriotism.

As always, Lee is concerned with larger social contexts, and while 25th Hour is densely layered with ideas, the one that stands out among the rest is simply put, but not always simply done: do the right thing.

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2002 THE GAZETTE