This week:
The 25th Hour

Filthy says:
"Better than its flaws

Yesterday I was driving up Kipling. There's a sandwich shop somewhere around there and, rain or shine, some unlucky bastard has to stand on the street corner in a big foam sandwich costume, doing a jig and waving to passing cars. I'm no marketing wizard, but I guess the thought of some sweaty guy in tights and a giant loaf of bread makes people start getting hungry. Every now and then a kid will wave back at Mr. Sandwich and I think, what the fuck are our schools teaching the Youth of America? That giant sandwiches are our friends? Kids, never, ever give a giant sandwich your name, and don't get into their wienermobiles, no matter how many free cold cuts they promise.

In the summer, Mr. Sandwich staggers with fatigue before lunchtime and that cheap sticky foam becomes an oven. You can smell burning flesh, the foam lettuce poking out of his sides wilts, and sweat drips down his arms and pools on the concrete. Late in the day, Mr. Sandwich parks his whole-wheat ass on the curb, tucks his sandwich head between his knees and tosses his Famous Amoses. I feel bad for the guy in the costume, you know, because he's got to get out there and make an ass of himself for minimum wage.

In the winter, Mr. Sandwich taps like Scatman Crothers on crank. The young man is dancing for his life. The sidewalk is like a block of ice so he can't curl up and conserve his warmth.

I realize it's a privilege I have, and not a right, to be able to make an ass out of myself for free. No boss is going to demean me by telling when to dress like a foot-long BMT, or how to dance. It's like a wise man in Slacker said, "Hey, I may not live well, but at least I don't have to work to do it." But Mr. Sandwich isn't so lucky. He does have to work to live poorly.

Anyway, now you know as much about Mr. Sandwich as I did before yesterday when, as I pulled up the intersection, two teenagers jumped out of a brand new Mustang in front of me, cut across oncoming traffic and jumped Mr. Sandwich.

Mr. Sandwich was waving his "Two For One" sign in the opposite direction when the two punks jumped his back, tore off his soft crust and started beating the shit out of him. Bits of fake tomato and baloney flew through the air. Mr. Sandwich hit the ground and the bigger of the two kids punched him in the face. The smaller kid kicked him in the ribs. Mr. Sandwich pulled up his skinny mustard legs, covered his ears with his novelty oversized white gloves and tried to stem the rush of blood from his head.

I pulled the Galaxie up onto the curb and jumped out. The light had just changed and I ran across the street. The two kids had Mr. Sandwich in a headlock when I got there. I pulled the first kid away. He spat a truly amateurish string of curse words. "Fucker this!" and "Fucker that!" said the teenager, but he was smaller than me. Besides, his hands stung from the cold and the punches he had thrown. I locked eyes with the second kid, who was pressing Mr. Sandwich's teeth against the concrete. Before I even got to him, he had backed off. Before I could even he two kids took off running, yelling "Asshole!" over their shoulders.

I'm not telling this story because I think I'm some hot shit hero of the working man. I'm not even a hero to me. Seriously, I'm glad those punks ran away because my fucking heart was in my throat. I was pretty scared and my mind was flipping through the photo album in my head, looking at all the after pictures from ass-whoopings I've gotten over the years. I'm a shitty fighter, the kind of guy who puts his thumbs inside his fists and has a high center of gravity. I bleed easy, and I cry even easier. But, Mr. Sandwich needed me, and I was like one of those grannies that, when necessary, are able to lift buses off of babies. I felt so bad for Mr. Sandwich. What could a guy who makes his living impersonating a sandwich do to deserve a beating?

It turns out, a lot. Holy shit was that guy an asshole. After I pulled him off the sidewalk and helped him collect the torn bits of salad, the prick didn't even say thanks. Instead, he called me a pussy and said he fucked my wife. That was before he hit me up for 200 bucks and said he might sue me if I didn't give it to him. He claims I twisted his ankle helping him up. Mr. Sandwich is a world-class asshole.

The lesson I learned is that even the meekest, weakest and most humble among us deserves a good beating every now and then. No matter how simple or average we may appear to be, or what costume we wear, we can always used a little justice meted out through the fists of obnoxious teenagers in cars nicer than ours.

This is, in part, the story of The 25th Hour, the story of an average joe drug dealer played by Edward Norton. He's not a flashy thug or a gangster. He's more like a plain old guy who can't resist the riches of dealing shitloads of heroin. Norton has been busted. Someone told the pigs he had a kilo of El SeŇor Smack Monkey Horse and a ton of cash stuffed into the nice sofa in his even nicer apartment. Now he's going to jail for seven years.

The story takes place on Norton's last day of freedom as he tries to sort out his personal life. He wants to connect with his two best friends one last time, and he wants to say goodbye to his father. But he does not really want to know who ratted him out to the pigs because for fear that it was his girlfriend (the unbelievably beautiful Rosario Dawson). Nobody, including Norton, thinks the pretty boy is going to make it out of prison alive, or at least with a sphincter that can still close.

The day and night winds through bars and a nightclub and winds into the following morning. Norton's friend Philip Seymour Hoffman is a prep school teacher trying to avoid confronting his urges toward a 17-year-old student, but can't when they are thrown together drunk at the nightclub. His other friend, Barry Pepper, is a hotshot stockbroker who lusts after Dawson but is deep down a decent guy.

If I'm going to spend a night in Manhattan with a worried guy, I'd rather it were Griffin Dunne in After Hours, but The 25th Hour is pretty good. It's too long by about a half hour. But this is the awards time of year, and pretty much any serious movie takes way too fucking long and ends up being too obvious for its own good.

Norton annoys me. I see actors falling into two categories. In the first is people like Philip Seymour Hoffman and William h. Macy. The character they're playing always comes first and while you're watching the movie, you watch the character. They don't puff up like a peacock on the screen. The second type is Norton, Julianne Moore and John Cusack. These are the actors who make it all too obvious they are ACTING. You never see the character; you see them playing the character. Norton is bland, which this role requires, but he's not bland in any interesting way. He's just in the center of the screen, ACTING his ass off when he should be fading in. His character is ultimately an asshole that's human. A guy getting the shit kicked out of him on the corner, but he deserves it and nobody should step in.

Director Spike Lee deserves a hell a lot of credit for making a protagonist who isn't entirely sympathetic. None of this namby-pamby watering down horseshit. None of this, "Oh, but he comes from a broken home" crap. Lee gets inside his psyche and exposes his cowardice, and Norton's redemption is not heartwarming.

Dawson is so fucking beautiful. She's got the prettiest lips I have ever seen. More than just physical beauty is the intelligence in her eyes. She's got light inside and it comes out her eyes. I know that sounds like some sort of soft-headed crap, but I hope she's reading. She's a very good actress. She doesn't chew scenery and she's always the smartest person in the scene.

Hoffman is the best part of the movie. His story is sort of weak. Anna Paquin is more creepy than attractive as the 17-year-old, and the devices used to bring them together feel pretty forced. But Hoffman is just so fucking good at being a zhlub that the decisions of his character made me squirm and wish he wouldn't.

The movie also lamely attempts to shoehorn is some sort of message about New York and September 11, 2001. It's more opportunistic than organic to the story, and I could see the seams where they grafted this poignant shit onto the story. It could have said plenty about New York without the noisome, obvious rant by Norton about how sick he is of all the different ethnic cliques in the city. Of course, at the end he realizes that diversity is what makes the city beautiful. No shit. On the other hand, the movie really does a good job of showing New York City.

Lee can create moments of beautiful subtlety, only to follow them by whacking the viewer over the head with a Cool Hand Luke poster in Norton's apartment or a long speech. He also shows off way too much. When the way a scene is shot becomes more important than the content of the scene, I call bullshit. That's just showing off, and I can't tell you how many times he uses overly elaborate tracking shots. Just tell the fucking story.

Four Fingers for The 25th Hour. And remember, don't stop to help someone getting his ass kicked. He probably deserved it.

Want to tell Filthy Something?

Filthy's Reading
Jules Verne - Journey to the Center of the Earth

Listening to
Myself on the December 1 Episode of - The Open Grove


About a Boy

Kevin Thomas of the LA Times

Two Weeks Notice "has the wit and charm of a classic romantic comedy!"

The Wild Thornberrys
"makes a witty and delightful Christmas present for the entire family!"

Eight Crazy Nights, "This lively, bittersweet Columbia release works well and sure to connect strongly with fans!"

Friday After Next "spotlights a lot of talented and funny people"


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