25th Hour – 3.5 stars

25th Hour.  Further confirmation that sometimes, when Spike Lee does not write a movie and/or it is not wholly dealing with the modern problems of black America as viewed by a wealthy courtside-sitting Knicks fan, he can forego lecturing us and make a solid picture .  See also Clockers and Inside Man.  Edward Norton is spending his last day and night before serving a 7 year stretch for drug distribution.  He deals with the certainty of his impending brutalization and agonizes over the choices he made.  Norton does this while saying his goodbyes to friends and family, all of whom are New York City archetypes.  His father, Brian Cox, is a former fireman (the film is a post- 9-11 story and it is reliant on that catastrophe) and now proprietor of an Irish tavern; his girlfriend, Rosario Dawson, is a luscious Puerto Rican who had never been to Puerto Rico until Norton took her; his best friends are Barry Pepper (a tough, conservative New York Post conservative trader) and Philip Seymour Hoffman (a tentative, caring, Jewish public school teacher who lives a meager, sheltered life and has a hidden trust fund).  Anna Paquin is Hoffman’s vixen of student, all freedom and possibility, just on the edge of pregnancy and disease and the first steps to getting used up. Norton’s employers are Russian mobsters.

Norton’s choices are delicate.  He does not sweat or ooze like so many would-be Brandos.  But the story is what holds you, and Lee infuses his lyrical skills, minus the preaching.

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