Lone Star Cinema: 25th Hour
It seems strange to select such a New York City-centric film as Spike Lee's 25th Hour for Lone Star Cinema, but the epilogue for the movie was filmed in our state. So, here we are. Released a year after 9/11, the movie moves at a kind of meditative pace as drug dealer Monty Brogan (Edward Norton) spends his last day as a free man in NYC. He meanders around the city with his rescued pitbull Doyle, and has dinner with his dad (a gruff Brian Cox, The Bourne Identity) before meeting friends at a club for one last fete.
There are a few flashbacks as Monty recalls meeting his younger lady love, Naturelle (Rosario Dawson, Rent) and suspects her possible involvement in the bust that led to his arrest. His two closest friends are from childhood: slick investment banker Frank (Barry Pepper, True Grit) and lumpy prep school teacher Jacob (Philip Seymour Hoffman, Capote). All three commiserate and celebrate with Marty as he faces a seven-year sentence.
25th Hour is based on a screenplay by David Benioff, who wrote the original novel (and would go on to run HBO's Game of Thrones). The language is gritty, especially in the harsh monologue Norton's character delivers to a bathroom mirror: a rant about ethnic and other minorities in the city that speaks more to his feeling of absolute desparation than anything else. The rapport between the three fellows is often believably strained and forced, for what do they really have in common anymore besides the length of time they've known each other?
Anna Paquin (True Blood) appears in a ridiculous role as a sexy teen in Jacob's class. Hoffman exhibits Jacob's conflicting feelings of resignation, lust, and hope for a shared connection, but this trope is nothing new. In 25th Hour, it seems unnecessary. It's eye-rollingly clear from the moment Paquin's character first appears onscreen where this part of the storyline will go.
Adding to the otherwise pensive quality of Lee's film, its hauntingly stark opening-credits sequence depicts the Tribute in Light at Ground Zero set to a slow jazzy score by Terence Blanchard. Blanchard's music is constant through 25th Hour, a bit too obvious at times and slightly too epic for this intimate flick.
Austin/Texas connections: The last portion of the movie was shot in Austin, Elgin and El Paso. 25th Hour feels overlong by the time Texas shows up, but it's worth hanging in for. That's all I can say without spoiling anything.