Hey now, gang. I’m back with another 300 Words post. Today’s entry is one of those not-so-new ones, an underseen and underrated film I’ve been championing for years, the 2002 Spike Lee joint 25th HOUR.
“Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.”
Adapted by Game of Thrones showrunner David Benioff from his own 2001 novel, this somber, but compelling film revolves around Monty Brogan (Edward Norton), a New York drug dealer who’s about to serve a 7-year prison sentence for trafficking. In the final hours before his inevitable lockup, he gathers his closest friends, Slaughtery (Barry Pepper) and Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), each of whom took a different route in life—a Wall Street trader and high school teacher, respectively—and both of whom are dealing with their own personal crises. Monty’s also trying to make amends with his father and girlfriend. He suspects the latter (Rosario Dawson) may be the one who turned him in to the cops.
This subdued, character-driven piece is divisive director Spike Lee at his most restrained and introspective, and I dare say, best. Mr. Mars Blackmon shot the atmospheric drama in New York City just months after the attacks of September 11th, and as his “joints” (almost) always center on the lives of New Yorkers, it was impossible not to incorporate the pain and hope of the still-reeling city into the film’s already mournful narrative.
There’s an awesome DO THE RIGHT THING-style mirror scene late in the movie that, for the record, was not Spike ripping himself off. The rant was straight out of the novel (though, for all we know, Benioff may have been paying homage to Lee with it). The other standout scene is the film’s closing voiceover monologue from Monty’s blue collar pop (Brian Cox), which is absolutely beautiful and heartbreaking. 25th HOUR’s pace and tone may not work for some, but the movie has always struck a chord with me. I think it’s a flawed near-masterpiece that I’m pretty sure would crack the top 20 of my favorite films of the aughts.
Check this one out if you haven’t seen it. If you have, did it make a similar impression on you? Did you hate it? Could you not get past its polarizing director? I’d like to hear your thoughts on it.
Thanks for taking the time, guys and gals.