Director: Spike Lee
Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Anna Paquin, Brian Cox
Montgomery “Monty” Brogan (Norton) is about to serve a seven-year prison sentence for dealing drugs. For his last night of freedom, he meets with his childhood friends, Slaughtery (Pepper) and Jacob (Hoffman), and his long-term girlfriend Naturelle (Dawson). They party and talk and fight, and Monty tries to determine who really sold him out, all while fearing the morning that awaits him.
Despite being a Spike Lee film with a top-notch cast, I know of few who have actually heard of it. This is a shame as it features one of Norton’s best performances and a standout performance from Barry Pepper, who is arguably one of the most underrated actors in the business. Taking place during the final day before Monty’s sentence begins, the film offers the occasional flashback to interrogation room scenes and meet cutes between Monty and Naturelle. We learn of the kind of man Monty is; he’s taking responsibility for his actions and is accepting his punishment. He is angry and seeking redemption in his final hours and this is evident during the well known ‘mirror scene’.
My favourite aspect of the film is how each character handles Monty’s looming prison term. Slaughtery is angry at his friend but he is a realist and tries to prepare Jacob for what’s to come, and Naturelle and Monty’s father, James (Cox), try to adjust to a possible life without him. All of the actors are at their best when they are simply just talking or arguing with one another. Half of the film takes place in a noisy, blue-filtered, nightclub but this is where their secrets, fears and realisations come to light and each actor has their moment.
In a short amount of time, we care for these characters and, more specifically, how Monty’s departure will affect them. Monty is not the nicest of people but the film’s success is that it makes you feel scared for him and it makes you want to forgive him. As well as fantastic performances, it is a brilliantly written, thought-provoking drama and one of Spike Lee’s best. An underrated classic.
“Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.”