Spile Lee’s “25th Hour” focuses on intense character portrayal and the nuance of setting, ignoring a somewhat skimpy plotline. Certainly deviating from director Spike Lee’s typical cast, the movie surprisingly deals with the lives of three white guys in New York City. Still, Lee stamps his signature on the film with its alluring emotional intensity, social commentary and lyrical cinematography.

Montgomery Brogan’s (Edward Norton) life as he knows it has ended after being convicted of major drug charges and sentenced to seven years in prison. The rather slow two-and-a half hours of screen time are devoted to Monty’s last day of freedom in which he is tormented by his greed, guilt and the suspicion that his beautiful girlfriend Naturelle (Rosario Dawson, “Men in Black II”) was the one who tipped off the cops. He spends time with his father (Brian Cox) and meets with his long-time buddies Jakob (Philip Seymour Hoffman), a high school teacher, and Frank (Barry Pepper, “61*”), a Wall Street broker. Frank clearly explains Monty’s only three options: go to prison, run away or put a bullet in his head. The three guys, along with Naturelle, spend Monty’s last evening at a nightclub where Monty’s supplier wants to meet with him one last time. Also, an entertaining subplot involving Jakob’s love interest, his 16-year-old student (Anna Paquin), weaves its way into the narrative.

Lee grants his actors ample time to develop their roles through lengthy dialogue-driven scenes. Norton is perfectly cast as a tough, sophisticated man who wouldn’t last a day in the maximum-security prison due to his pretty face. In every close-up, his eyes suggest an overwhelming amount of pain and suffering as he counts down his final hours. Hoffman is vulnerable and sympathetic, expertly juxtaposed with Pepper’s cocky, yet loyal, character. Cox delivers another excellent performance as a grieving father, while Paquin plays the symbol of innocence as the na

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