I thoroughly enjoyed Spike Lee's "Inside Man," and appreciated the respect that Lee shows actors, in the film. It's the kind of movie set in NYC that only a New Yorker could make, full of accurately-rendered local nuance and a loving ear for the every day racial riffing that you hear in New York (trust me, man. I taught English for a short time out on Long Island, at a middle school in the lower Bronx, and at Bronx High School of Science. Race is inescapable as a prime source of low-grade tribal maneouvering, caste formation, economic mobility or immobility, and humor--lots of humor.) The film is full of great bits, character turns that both obscure the tissue-thin plot and make it richer. Having chosen actors with wonderful faces and dialects, he let's them rip, in their brief moments on screen.
Lee also gives every character with even a few lines his respect by drawing attention to them in the post-film credit sequence. He lets a dozen or so actors see their names highlighted on screen--alone, without anyone else's name next to their's--super imposed over a close up of them. These actors aren't doing 'under five' work, but they are doing the kind of roles that most audiences completely take for granted. Lee wows me with this little show of respect. And I'm going to see the movie again just to watch these actors work.
Update: I want to re-emphasize that the plot of this film is stupid, and that the only reason to see it is the performances, but what a reason! The leads are good--especially Denzel Washington--but the leads are largely foils for the supporting players, rather than the other way around. I love how Spike Lee gives the supporting actors plenty of dramatic space in which to move! (I'm not a fan of Quentin Tarantino, but he similarly takes joy in his character actors' work, which helps me to forgive him of other irritating qualities.) Again and again, Denzel sets up the scene for another player, and stands back appreciatively to watch the actor deliver.
Old movies were like this, weren't they? Name me some current ones, would you?