'Inside Man' vs. 'Quick Change'

Bill Murray as a clown in a detail from the poster for 'Quick Change.'

Bill Murray is "a crying on the inside" kind of clown in the 1990 film 'Quick Change.' Warner Bros. hide caption

itoggle caption Warner Bros.

In many ways, Spike Lee's film Inside Man is reminiscent of an earlier heist flick called Quick Change. Scott Simon discusses both movies with Elvis Mitchell, host of The Treatment on NPR station KCRW in Santa Monica, Calif.

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SCOTT SIMON, host:

Before there was the Inside Man, there was a movie called Quick Change, a comedy about a bank heist that seems to go right, but then suddenly wrong. It stars Bill Murray as a bank-robbing clown who can't seem to get any respect.

(Soundbite of film Quick Change)

Unidentified Man (Actor): I said we're closed, Bozo.

Mr. BILL MURRAY (as Grim): I wouldn't. And that's Mr. Bozo. Okay?

Unidentified Man (Actor): What the hell kind of clown are you?

Mr. MURRAY: The crying on the inside kind, I guess. This is a robbery. This is a robbery.

Mr. RANDY QUAID (as Loomis): It is.

(Soundbite of gunshots, screams, and dog barks)

MR. MURRAY: Thank you.

SIMON: Geena Davis and Randy Quaid also star as Bill Murray's fumbling accomplices in the film. They're pursued by an equally fumbling NYPD, led by Jason Robards. This movie was released in 1990, and the premise even some of the scenes, bear a striking similarity to this year's Inside Man.

Joining us now to talk about the films is WEEKEND EDITION's entertainment critic Elvis Mitchell.

Elvis, thanks so much for being with us.

Mr. ELVIS MITCHELL (Critic): Thank you, Scott. And by the way, this is a gun, not a gub.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: That's probably my favorite scene in my favorite Woody Allen. When Woody Allen made movies, now that was that.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Listen, are the producers of Inside Man getting away with a fast one here? I mean, is this a remake, a homage, or just simple theft?

Mr. MITCHELL: I think it's probably what they would call homage, and what we call in this country actionable. I don't know. It certainly takes a few notes from Quick Change, right down to the bank robbers sort hiding amongst the hostages, as the hostages are released to the police. But what they also both do, I think, pretty interestingly, is they're both about New York and New York of the period. The Quick Change New York of the 1990s is a New York that's in transition, everything is being sort of bulldozed. And once the bank robbers get away with their robbery, they still have to get out of the city. And that's where a lot of the comedy comes from, too.

It's got a great cast, a very young Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub, in addition to the future Oscar winner, Geena Davis, who hadn't won the Oscar yet at that point. And it's a first time directing job by Bill Murray. And Howard Franklin adapted the script from a Jay Cronley novel, which uses this texture. And in a way feels kind of like a parody of those 70s movies, movies like Dog Day Afternoon, that is also part of the texture of Inside Man.

SIMON: Mmm. What leads the movie industry to decide that this formula has appeal once again?

Mr. MITCHELL: Because that hasn't been seen for a while. What we see generally in heist movies now are these pictures where the guys robbing the bank, whatever institutions seem to be spending more money than they will actually make, putting all the equipment and their teams together...

SIMON: Like Oceans 11 and 12, right?

Mr. MITCHELL: Oceans, yeah, absolutely. Or the Italian Job, where they all seem to be so smart, you think if they just saved their money, they wouldn't have to rob the banks. And what I think movies like Quick Change and Inside Man, do also is take us back to the pleasures of film acting.

SIMON: Mm-hmm.

Mr. MITCHELL: You get a chance to see actors do what they can do. And that's really missing from these movies, too. They're not just playing these sort of cool, suave archetypes who are a step ahead of everybody else. There is, in fact, some sort of sense of turmoil, some sense of kind of, I think, real social interaction in these movies. And I think both Quick Change and Inside Man had that feeling you get from watching New York actors who spent a lot of the time on stage doing lots of different things, getting a chance to sort of bite into the meat of the role and savoring the role for the time they're on camera.

SIMON: Mm-hmm. Interested in the fact that because of, let's say, the anticipated success, at least for the next couple of weekends of Inside Man, it gives a chance for a movie like Quick Change to get a whole new raft of attention in DVD. I wonder if this isn't something new in the home entertainment industry now.

Mr. MITCHELL: Well, I think if Inside Man were made by Warner Brothers who made Quick Change, you be basically seeing buy Quick Change and get a free ticket to Inside Man. That way, they now basically try to keep the entire sort of synergy going in studios nowadays.

And for whatever reason, I don't know why, when Quick Change was finally released on DVD, it got almost no fanfare from the releasing company, no attention. And it's coming out from people who know the movie and love it, and understand how fun and how smart it really is, who are talking about it, who are building this buzz again.

SIMON: Elvis, thanks very much.

Mr. MITCHELL: And again, this is a gun, not a gub.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIMON: Elvis Mitchell is our entertainment critic here on WEEKEND EDITION and host of KCRW's The Treatment, speaking with from KCRW in Santa Monica, California.

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