25th Hour  (2002)


Starring: Edward Norton, Philip Seymour Hoffman, Barry Pepper, Rosario Dawson, Brian Cox, Anna Paquin
Spike Lee

Rating: R

Studio: Touchstone

Review Posted: 5.18.03

Spoilers: None/Minor


Reviewed by Dennis Landmann




The clock is ticking for Monty Brogan (Norton) because in 24 hours he goes to prison for seven long years. Once a king in Manhattan, Monty is about to say goodbye to the life he knew-a life that opened doors to New York's swankiest clubs but also alienated him from the people closest to him. In his last day on the outside, Monty tries to reconnect with his father (Cox), gets together with his two closest friends from the old days, Jacob (Hoffman) and Slaughtery (Pepper), and tries to leave on good terms with his girlfriend Naturelle (Dawson). Monty's not sure of much these days, but with time running out, there are choices to be made.




25th Hour is the first film that started shooting after 9/11 and the tragedy is referenced in the film to a certain extent. There’s also a pretty powerful speech by Edward Norton’s character that kind of reflects the mentality and insecurities after 9/11, but it doesn’t limit itself to those things. All of the characters in the film have something to say and impact the film in respective ways. Barry Pepper and Philip Seymour Hoffman share some really great scenes, especially the one taking place inside Pepper’s apartment.


To make my point, 25th Hour is an excellent character-driven drama. Surely, the story serves the film, but the characters make the material more important and realistic. The characters have their flaws, but all of them try their best to realize their faults and reconcile during Monty’s last 24 hours of freedom.


Director Spike Lee turns David Benioff’s screenplay (he adapted his own novel) into a really good film, perhaps one of the best of 2002. Many different things contribute to the film. One, the acting is phenomenal and elicits real emotion from the viewer. Norton delivers the punch and is joined by seasoned professionals such as Hoffman, Cox and Pepper. Two, the story is heartfelt and real. Three, the city serves as the perfect background. And four, the last twenty minutes (a view of Monty Brogan’s future narrated by Brian Cox’s character) of 25th Hour are among one of the best and most powerful scenes I have seen in quite a while.


A minor discrepancy is the film’s running time of 135 minutes, which is not bad per se, but seemed longer than suggested. Overall, 25th Hour is a very fine film, a must-see.


9 out of 10


>Read Christopher T. Bryan's Film Review!


The Video


25th Hour is presented in 2.35:1 anamorphic widescreen. Spots of dirt, many of which are clearly noticeable, linger around the print throughout the film. Either the transfer didn’t receive good enough maintenance or it is the fault of the print itself. I didn’t notice any lines going across the print and scratches appeared only a few times. The film’s color palette is well spread out and even subdued at times. Color detail is really nice, especially the bar scenes where blue takes over and creates a cool feel and adds some depth. Dark tones are not handled all too well, but prevail most of the time. Black levels shift between good and mediocre. 25th Hour’s cinematography creates a grand impact, but it is too bad the transfer or print doesn’t support it enough to make for a great video presentation.


7 out of 10


The Audio


25th Hour is THX-certified and available in English Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround Sound. Terence Blanchard’s score is magnificent and is spread out among all five speakers, the use of the rear speakers is especially rewarding. Dialogue scenes are clear and easy to understand. In fact, for a film of this caliber, the dialogue is detrimental and the THX-certified presentation picks up every bit of noise. Speaking of noise, the presentation creates a lot of it and the surround usage is fairly flawless, picking up subtle and cued sound effects with much strength. The audio presentation is very good thanks to in part, but not limited to, the THX-certified transfer. The film can also be heard in French Dolby Digital Stereo.


9 out of 10


The Extras


Commentary by Director Spike Lee – Lee is very energetic and talks about many different aspects of the film and the production. He keeps the track informative and conversational, making the listener comfortable. He doesn’t waste time by pausing for any great length of time, but talking for over two hours does seem to wear on him late into the commentary. I recommend a listen to anyone who appreciates Lee and his work, specifically the film he’s commenting on.


Commentary by Screenwriter David Benioff – He discusses the changes from the book to the script, but his comments are also scene-specific. Benioff seems to be enjoying himself and keeps the track informative as he adds snippets of trivia and related stories. The track is also fairly conversational and I recommend a listen if you’re interested in the process of making and writing a film.


Retrospective Featurette – This 26-minute documentary reflects on Spike Lee’s body of work, beginning with his first noticeable feature film, She’s Gotta Have It, and including School Daze, Do the Right Thing, and Malcolm X, among others. The documentary doesn’t reflect much on films like Girl 6, Get on the Bus, or Summer of Sam, however. While not overly in-depth, the documentary covers enough information, such as stories of some of his films and behind-the-scenes footage, and contains enough interviews to keep it informative and entertaining. The likes of Martin Scorsese, Denzel Washington, Halle Berry, Edward Norton, among others, offer their share of thanks and praise for Mr. Lee. This documentary is also well produced and directed, which is why I definitely recommend a viewing.


Deleted Scenes – “Sway” is perhaps the best of the handful of deleted scenes, however, I doubt it would have worked in the film. None of these are too exciting, but worth taking a look at once. An optional commentary by Lee or Benioff would have been nice.


Ground Zero: A Tribute – This 5-minute sequence includes shots of the ground zero site while playing Terence Blanchard’s beautiful score. It seems more like a deleted scene, but it shows the men and woman hard at work cleaning up the site. Therefore, this is a valuable tribute and addition to the DVD.


Aside from the aforementioned extras, bonus trailers are also available. You can select to view the film with optional English and French subtitles. The DVD’s menus are only somewhat animated, but the main menu carries a good tune. The 135-minute feature is organized into twenty chapters. The DVD is not labeled as a special edition, but you best take my word for it: this one is special alright.


9 out of 10




If you haven’t seen this film, you must pick it up immediately. 25th Hour is what really good films are all about; great characters, a real story, sensational acting, a sweet screenplay, and overall superb direction by Spike Lee. The video presentation lacks punch, but the audio transfer is sure to make your ears pump. This DVD release is kick-ass and comes highly recommended.









OVERALL (not an average)





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