Overlooked & Underseen: 25th Hour (2002)
Since this column’s inception back in November of 2016, I’ve tried to focus on films people aren’t talking about. What I mean by that are films that are off of the radar of most people. Sure, someone, somewhere, on the planet might be talking about Wisconsin Death Trip (well, maybe not that one) but it isn’t one I see mentioned on social media very often. So, a film in question might have been a critical success but, for whatever reason, I just don’t see it being discussed by, let’s say, Film Twitter. 25th Hour is one of these films.
Based upon the novel 25th Hour by David Benioff (who also adapted it for the screen), the film is about Montgomery Brogan, a drug dealer about to go to prison for seven years. He has one day left before he has to turn himself. We follow Monty through his last few hours of freedom.
Monty was living the high life in NYC. Drug dealing was good to him. He was rich, had a great car, nice apartment, hot girlfriend… everything money could buy. He got busted by the feds because someone turned him in. His friends are telling him maybe it was his girlfriend, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson). Monty doesn’t believe it, at first, but they plant that seed of doubt. It’s the last thing, though, he should be thinking about during his last few hours of freedom. He stops off to have a last meal with his dad (Brian Cox), a retired firefighter/bar owner, who will drive Monty to prison the next day.
Monty’s two best friends from childhood are going to take him out that night. One of them, Frank (Barry Pepper), is a hot shot stock trader who thinks he is God’s gift to women. The other, Jacob (Phillip Seymour Hoffman), is a shy prep school teacher who has a constant hard-on for one of his students (Anna Paquin). They go to a club run by Monty’s Russian drug supplier for a night of drinking, dancing, and good-byes.
Pre-production had started on 25th Hour when the tragic events of 9/11/2001 occurred in New York City. Rather than shy away from it or end production altogether, Lee incorporated the event into the film. It doesn’t sensationalize it but the fact the city was irrevocably changed because of it cannot be avoided. The city, the people, and life, in general, for NYC was altered. It became part of the story and it is ever present. From the opening credit sequence to Frank’s apartment overlooking the graveyard that had been the location of the Twin Towers, the people and places of New York City were both foreign and familiar. Lee does a fantastic job highlighting his beloved city forever changed just a few months earlier. Make no mistake, NYC is another character in the movie.
All the cast in this movie are doing some fine work here, although there is one seen toward the end of the film where Norton and Pepper are bordering on chewing that scenery. You’ll know it when you see it. Brian Cox is always top of his game and he doesn’t disappoint. Seeing both Phillip Seymour Hoffman and Patrice O’Neal made me a little sad, as both died much too soon.
If you’ve never seen 25th Hour or, if you’re like me, haven’t seen it since its release, please add this one to your watchlist. You’ll be glad you did.