Note: spoilers.  Then again, this is a seven year old film, so why do I bother with that?

A non-cliched crime drama?  Who’d of thought of that one?

I picked this movie up last month after seeing this show up on several notable film critics best film of the decade awards (some actually picking this as the best film of 2000-2009 (even though the decade runs from 2001-2010, but who’s keeping track?)), and I can see why.  I really don’t know how I missed it when it originally came out (just found out: only released in about 500 theaters during its run, back in 2002-2003, which at that time I had little money and would be on my way to flunking out Widener University, so at least I knew where I was at that time), but at least now I’m glad that I did decide to check it out.

The film, after opening with a scene suggesting that Murphy’s Law had something to do with Monty’s undoing (and, well, maybe every other major character in the film), and the scene of that undoing, shows the final hours in Monty’s life prior to his going to jail for seven years for drug possession and dealing.  He spends time with a variety of people in his life: his father, his girlfriend, his best mates from childhood.  All of them have something to say about Monty, and how Monty affected them.  His father, for instance, wishes to have raised his son better, but got lost after his wife died.  His girlfriend, Naturelle, latches onto him, more out of love, though what has she done with herself since that fateful meeting in the playground?  His two friends – one who plays the financial markets, the other a high school English teacher – each have their own thoughts and beliefs regarding themselves and their friend Monty, though Frank (the stock broker) knows he won’t visit Monty in jail.  Jacob (the English teacher) says he will visit, quite possibly remaining the most loyal of the bunch, but he has his doubts as well.  Jake is more worried about trying to keep his hands off of an underage student of his who dresses too provocatively and makes it known she does it to influence the people in her life.

We get to know each of these characters quite well, which is amazing given that the movie is all about Monty.  The characters engage each other, often away from Monty, and with Monty.  Loyalty is the pressing theme.  Like what I just mentioned about Frank, he says he won’t visit, but tells Monty he’ll do so to his face.  Monty knows otherwise, and makes that know when he asks for that final favor.  Frank’s motivation is greed, and unfortunately, not much more.  He’s alone at the end, while Jacob, given Monty’s dog Doyle as his final favor, seems to have found a new joy in life outside of the anxieties of self doubt he had faced while in the classroom.

As for Monty, greed seems to have played a part as well: he’s had more than one opportunity to get out of the drug business.  His positive influences were few and far in between, and he continued to sell drugs until he was caught.  Everyone believed it to be Naturelle (except for Monty’s dad, who knows better), but Murphy’s Law shows up towards the end, revealing the snitch, someone Monty thought was close to him.

Early on in the film, Monty rants to the world, giving a big middle finger to New York and the fakes that live within the city, and to some outside individuals as well (a big one to Osama bin Laden, for example, as the film was set post 9/11, when terrorist hunting and patriotism was the call of the day).  He rants about those closest to him too, and ends it with himself, since he knows he’s the biggest one of them all.  Seven years is a long time.

The final scene is incredibly moving, and sharply contrasts with the rant set early on.  While the rant is justified during the course of the movie, the final scene, a ten minute coda of a possible but unrealized redemption, sets the stage for what Monty could have been and will possibly be if he allows himself to run.  Yet Monty has already ran from everything in life, and seven years is the result.  Seven years is his redemption for the crimes he committed, and so he chooses not to run when his father suggests it.  His father knows it too, as they drive past the last turn off they have before continuing towards prison.

After viewing this film, I can see why this film is one of the best of the decade.  Excellently directed, written, and acted.  I’m glad to have added this one to my collection.

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