It's serious work elevating the crime genre above ridiculous clichés and boring by-the-numbers plotting, but this cracking good take on perfect-crime-obsessed bank robbers from director Spike Lee makes it look easy. Weary detective Denzel Washington plays hostage negotiator when a team of four jumpsuit-wearing, masked robbers (led by Clive Owen) take over a Manhattan bank, implicating all their hostages in the crime by dressing them all in the same jumpsuits.
Enter Jodie Foster as a shady corporate "fixer" hired by bank CEO Christopher Plummer to protect the mysterious contents of his own safety deposit box. As the power players try to outwit each other and the supporting cast steps up to complicate and flesh out the chaos, the movie's energy approaches those of the smartly written and directed crime dramas of the 1970s. It's intense fun that never slows down or takes the easy way out, making it one of the coolest films of the year so far.