In Inside Man, Detective Keith Frazier (Denzel Washington) attempts to understand criminal mastermind Dalton Russell (Clive Owen) to diffuse a dangerous bank robbery and hostage situation. Madeline White (Jodie Foster) hopes to protect the interests of the bank owner (Christopher Plummer) who conceals a scandalous past. Neither Washington nor Foster presents any surprises. Each plays a character similar to past roles for good reason -- they're good at it. As you might expect, they play serious characters who rarely deviate from their goals.
It seems questionable whether a bank heist flick is the best vehicle for satire and racial commentary, but Lee keeps it light by revealing his social criticisms humorously. In addition, Inside Man manages to be fresh largely because of its plot. As the heist unfolds, the robber's plan becomes complicated, and when you think you've got things figured out, you realize you're still not quite sure what's going on or even whom to root for.