Inside Man 2 Script Review

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Screenplay by Russell Gewirtz (Inside Man, Righteous Kill)

What is it?
A sequel to the 2006 hit, Inside Man.  Production is tentatively scheduled to begin next year.

Who’s back?
Screenwriter Russell Gewirtz, Director Spike Lee, Denzel Washington, Clive Owen, Chiwetel Ejiofor and Jodie Foster.

Who’s not?
Willem Dafoe and Christopher Plummer’s characters from the original film are absent.

What’s it about?

SLIGHT SPOILERS BELOW

What’s it about?
Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) unwittingly teams up with nemesis Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) to uncover the truth behind a bloody robbery in New York’s Diamond District.

When does it take place?
3-4 years after the original, modern day.

How long does it take for Washington and Owen to meet up?
Page one, in a holding area at Riker’s Island.  We then flashback several weeks to see what brought these two men together.

Without spoiling too much, how and why would they ever team up?  Is it a buddy movie?
Would rather not say, but they re-connect due to mutual interests.  It’s not a buddy movie.

Is Dalton the villain?
I will say that Frasier and Dalton share a common enemy this time out.

Who’s that?
Powerful Eastern European gangsters who like to blow things up and sew men’s mouths shut.   This isn’t really a spoiler, it’s secondary to the Dalton/Frasier thing.

What is the size of Jodie Foster’s appearance?
I haven’t read screenplay for the original film, but it seemed like it was a larger part this time out.

What is her role in the sequel?
She’s still the power broker, the woman who can get things done.  This time, she’s at the mercy of one of the two leads.  That might change during the course of the film…more than once.  Many games are played between the three central characters.

What’s good about the script?
- The dialogue.  The humor.  The dynamic between Russell and Dalton and both men with White.   There’s enormous chemistry between these characters on the page. It should transfer to the screen without a hitch with these three actors.
- The tone is refreshingly lightweight, despite the often violent nature of what’s happening on-screen (more below).
- The opening fifteen minutes are dynamite.  We start off with a heated confrontation between Washington and Owen, jump to a tense hostage situation and finally a MASSIVE Heat-esque battle in the streets of Manhattan.  It moves like a freight train.
- I enjoyed the way in which plot points from the original (Foster’s character, the diamond Owen slipped into Washington’s jacket) figure into the plot in a fairly organic way.  None of them seemed forced.
- This draft is six months old and virtually shoot-ready.  I would have no hesitation greenlighting this if I were Universal.

What’s bad?
- The plot is needlessly convoluted this time out.  I was a little lost by the last 10-15 pages, particularly with the (SPOILER) sudden re-introduction of several characters from the original.
- The villains could use some work.  Gewirtz strives to make them these vicious, Keizer-Soze-esque monsters, but they just aren’t very interesting.  They come off like your generic Eastern European movie baddies.  The good news is that their overall screen time is limited, despite being integral to the plot.
- The violence is a little over-the-top in patches.  Someone mentioned to me recently that they enjoyed Inside Man because of it’s old school, fairly non-violent nature.  Here, we have everything from torture to vomit-inducing mutilation.  It adds little to the proceedings and I can’t think of a single reason why we couldn’t explore the vicious nature of the villains through dialogue and toned-down violence.

Close out with a big spoiler!
While the way Lee and the actors decide to play the final scene is still a question, it’s clear that the roots are planted for a third chapter.

In review:
Surprisingly engaging follow-up.  If Gewirtz and Lee can take the rest of the year to develop (or re-imagine) the villains and streamline the third act: this is a lay-up.

Previously: Jackrabbit Slim gives his take on the original.

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4 responses »

  1. Man, you’re working hard for our keep. Send me into a guilt trip.

    Is this thing really happening? IMDb shows Spike Lee is attached to this, but they’re not exactly reliable sources on upcoming films.

    The first one earned 184 mill worldwide, which is good but not immediately sequel-worthy. Maybe it did good on dvd. Ah, see now that it cost 45 million, meaning the actors slashed their salaries to be in “a Spike Lee joint.” Would they do it again for a sequel? Very doubtful this thing could be done with their usual salaries. But it was one of the best movies the three have been involved in for quite a while, so from that perspective I’ll keep my hopes up.

  2. Is this thing really happening?

    Yeah, I think they’re still aiming for next year. Lee was talking about the project a few months ago and Owen has said he’s’ already signed (although that could have been part of his deal for the original).

    I was very skeptical for all the reasons you mentioned. While I still don’t think they “need” to do a sequel, but it’s a very enjoyable piece of work.

  3. According to The Hollywood Reporter this is officially on the fast track.

    Downside: The above review is moot as Terry George is coming in as the new writer. No word on whether he’ll be reworking this draft or starting from scratch. I’m honestly pretty disappointed, there was a lot of great stuff in Gewirtz’s follow-up.

  4. Lee confirmed to MTV that the screenplay reviewed above is dead. George’s version is a whole new take.

    If the new version works: they will begin shooting late summer (Washington, Owen, Foster and Ejiofor’s schedules are free at that time).

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