A crew of bank robbers clad in dark painter’s jumpsuits command their 30-odd hostages to undress and put on matching garb. An elderly woman shrinks back against the wall in refusal. “Go ahead,” she stammers to the head thief as he menaces her with a gun, “make my day.”
Spike Lee’s “Inside Man” may boast all the trappings of a grade-A heist flick, but it doesn’t forget to smile. The elderly woman’s nervous Clint Eastwood imitation is just one among several cheeky references that end up lending the film’s simple “let’s-rob-a-bank” plot some plausibility. Detective Frazier (the unflappable Denzel Washington) throws up his hands in exasperation at the robbers’ request for a plane. Frazier knows, as the audience does, that such a demand never works. “Haven’t you seen ‘Dog Day Afternoon?’ ” he asks.
But “Inside Man” doesn’t break the clich