Spike Lee is hardly known as a director for hire, having built his name and reputation on being one of the most incendiary voices in modern cinema. It can’t be a coincidence that when he ventured into hired gun territory to helm the Oldboy remake in 2013, the end result was a critical and commercial dud that barely scraped past $5 million at the box office.
That being said, the biggest hit of his entire career was a glossy crime caper, albeit one that starred A-lister and proven draw Denzel Washington in the lead role. Inside Man was the fourth collaboration between the filmmaker and actor, but their first in fourteen years since Malcolm X, so expectations were high going in.
Luckily, Inside Man delivered on that front by offering plenty of slick thrills as Washington’s veteran detective found himself facing off against a cunning band of armed thieves. The setup has been done a thousand times, but Russel Gerwitz’s inventive screenplay subverts the tropes and expectations folks had in their heads, slapping a fresh coat of paint on a tired subgenre.
The most accessible and crowd-pleasing Spike Lee joint ever, Inside Man hauled in $186 million and won strong notices for its smart plotting and ingenious twists, not to mention solid performances from the reliable central quintet of Washington, Chiwitel Ejiofor, Clive Owen, Jodie Foster and Christopher Plummer. Fifteen years after first hitting theaters, it’s now finding a new audience on streaming after cracking HBO Max’s Top 10 most-watched list, as per FlixPatrol.