At his wits' end, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) stands at the locked doors of a bank in the Big Apple. His patience has been tested. His nerves are on edge. At first, he assumed he was investigating an ambitious bank robbery, but things here just don't add up. Staring through the glass doors, he shouts at the invaders inside, "This ain't no bank robbery!"

Is it? Or isn't it? That's just one of the many puzzles presented to Frazier, his partner Bill (Serenity's Chiwetel Ejiofor), and the battalion of police piling up in the streets around the bank. Masked gunmen, led by a calculating self-proclaimed genius named Dalton Russell (Clive Owen), have sealed themselves inside with a cross-section of temperamental New Yorkers, and there's no telling how far the alleged robbers will go to get what they want. But what do they really want? Money? Why is the mastermind so cool and confident, even when the building is surrounded?

Making matters worse for the cops, there are puzzles outside of the bank as well—like the mayor's delivery of a mysterious professional named Madeline White (Jodie Foster), who won't explain her credentials or function, but promises that if the police let her into the bank, she will help resolve the situation. Then there's the head of the bank, Arthur Case (Christopher Plummer), who seems awfully agitated about having crooks snooping around in the safety deposit boxes.

No matter how Inside Man turns out, it's clear early in the film who it is that walks away triumphant—director Spike Lee. Lee's energy, intelligent humor, flashy visual style, and affection for New York's multicultural population make him the perfect choice for the material. This may not be his most important film—I ...

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