The Great Character theme for the month: Spike Lee. Today: Marty Brogan from the 2002 movie 25th Hour, screenplay by David Benioff based on his novel.
Two brilliant blue beam beacons of hope illuminate the double void where the World Trade Center buildings were sadly snatched from the New York City skyline on September 11th 2001. An operatic anthem ushers in a regal announcement that the “City That Never Sleeps” will remain wide-awake – against all odds. Just 15 months and eight days after this unforgettably tragic atrocity, filmmaker Spike Lee’s 2002 crime drama 25th Hour reaffirms the Big Apple’s remarkable resilience for anyone foolish enough to doubt it. We soon learn that it is Edward Norton’s riches-to-rags Irish New Yorker character Monty Brogan who is also getting his own resilience tested while prepping for his 7-year prison stint during his last free sunrise/sunset cycle.
25TH Hour summary from IMDB:
Cornered by the DEA, convicted New York drug dealer Montgomery Brogan reevaluates his life in the 24 remaining hours before facing a seven-year jail term.
MONTY BROGAN: He’s a good dog, I can see it in his eyes. He’s a tough little bastard, he wasn’t lying down for anybody.
Before we know Monty’s criminal circumstances, we first meet this man as a person who see’s a life worth saving, in the form of an injured, abandoned dog. Giving this four-legged furry friend a second chance at life is similar to what Monty desperately desires from the legal system. But me must appear strong to his red hot ride-or-die girlfriend Naturelle Riviera (Rosario Dawson), his alcoholic bar-owning father James Brogan (Brian Cox), his timid school teacher pal Jacob Elinsky (Philip Seymour Hoffman) and his arrogant bachelor Wall Street buddy Frank Slaughtery (Barry Pepper). Underneath Monty’s shoulder-shrugging snark is an understandably petrified pretty boy seeking internal solidarity while maintaining the facade of false confidence.
Between Monty’s Irish upbringing, his Puerto Rican lady Naturelle, his Jewish man Jacob and his Russian mob drug connections, Monty’s melting pot is preparing to cook him up into a new culture – prison life. Like a welcomed homage to the famous stereotype montage in Spike Lee’s milestone Do the Right Thing, Monty blames every ethnicity that co-exists in his hometown NYC, including the spirit of Jesus Christ himself. But really, his hate actually has courtside seats to watch the man in the mirror beat himself up. Today he may savor the sight of double overtime, but tomorrow equals “game over.”
MONTY BROGAN: Champagne for my real friends, and real pain for my sham friends.
Jacob and Frank were Monty Brogan’s real day-one friends – law-abiding guys that he was raised to become just like. But street life called Monty’s number, he ran into the chaos without looking back, and left a life of safety and security behind. The 25th Hour gives Monty ample playing room to relive the way he wishes his privileged existence had turned out; the Monty Brogan that didn’t have big bricks of narcotics secretly stuffed as couch upholstery.
Fear and paranoia over who exactly was the un-loyal culprit that led the DEA directly to Monty’s illegal drug inventory ruptures Monty’s ability to trust. The morbid mayhem Monty shudders at experiencing in prison when the next morning arrives drinks his blood like a psychological vampire. Options and opportunities for his future shrink with each passing hour as Monty shifts from final celebration mode to urgent survival status.
MONTY BROGAN: I need you to make me ugly.
In a heart-breaking father-son bonding moment, Spike orchestrates an emotionally jolting sequence – Monty’s humble blue collar dad surprisingly advising his son to disappear, reinvent himself and leaves his apocalyptic past at ground zero.
For his sobering search for redemption, his 24-hour attempt to hop out of his missteps, and for his gallant gallops through Gotham with the aftermath of the 9/11 turmoil still closing in all around him – Monty Brogan is an incredible GREAT CHARACTER in Spike Lee’s highly impressive collection.
Thank you, Jason, for this post and the entire month-long series featuring characters from Spike Lee movies.
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