He is shown to be an extremely smart person who planned and actually executed an excellent bank robbery.

In the first scene of the movie he is shown breaking the fourth wall where he says:

Recently I planned and set in motion events to execute the perfect bank robbery.

That's also the "when."

As for the "why," beyond the obvious financial motivation, it's exceedingly simple.

Because I can.

This hints towards one of his motivations and the confidence in doing so.

In the later part of the film he tells Madeleine (the fixer hired by Arthur Case, the chairman of the board of directors):

Let me tell you a story. During World War II, there was an American working for a bank in Switzerland. Now, I don't need to tell you that this period in history was rife with opportunity for people of low morals. People like this man (Arthur Case). He used his position with the Nazis to enrich himself while all around him people were being stripped of everything they owned. Then he used his blood money to start a bank. Now, does this sound like it might be the man you work for? Or am I just whistling Dixie out of my ass?

This essentially portrays that Dalton is stealing from just another bad guy. There are other incidents as well where Dalton's possibly good side is shown.

  1. He doesn't actually shoot a victim but just fakes it.
  2. In the face-to-face conversation with Detective Keith Dalton tells him that money shouldn't matter if he really loves his girlfriend. (This conversation was bit funny.)
  3. In the end of the movie Keith finds a diamond in his pocket which was left there by Dalton (as a gift) when he bumped into Keith while leaving the bank.
  4. His conversation with Brian, an 8-year-old boy who is playing a violent video game on his PlayStation Portable.

And finally in the end when Dalton is leaving the bank there is a short monologue by him which tells quite a bit about his character. That he doesn't want to kill people but just steal.

What was Dalton's point? Did his character have any depth beyond what was portrayed? Or he was just another smart villain stealing from other bad guys?

4 Answers 4


According to Clive Owen it's deliberately ambiguous


What builds your character, what makes him tick? Is there going to be a sequel to this movie because you walk out with the document, the Nazi document, is there going to be a sequel?

Clive Owen: Not that I know of. What drove me was the idea of playing this guy who pulls off this very extraordinary bank robbery and has his own reasons for doing so. It looks like it's one thing, he takes hostages and it looks like it's going to be a very violent sort of, this guy in there to rob the bank and make a lot of money for himself, and that isn't quite the case. The guy's motivated by other things and it is ambiguous, it's not a straight forward, clear cut thing. I think that goes for every character in the movie. I think that every character is very rich and ambiguous. Also I think that Spike added, it wasn't in the script, it's full of that New York flavor. You've got lots of great character actors in from New York and there were lots of scenes that were improvised and just he really fleshed it out and made a very smart script into something even richer I think.


Dalton (Owens) is the "Everyman" in this movie. What the world sees, what you and I see, is that in most facets of life the rich get richer, the poor get poorer, and rarely does any high-ranking white collar criminal ever pay for their crimes. Think about the housing bubble of 2008. When that bubble popped, nearly every large bank and Wall Street firm was culpable, yet not a single one of the people responsible spent a minute in jail. People went bankrupt, but no one paid for it.

This is just one example of a larger issue; the frustration of the poor to middle class about the fact that the upper class rarely has to atone for what they do. Yes, there are the occasional people like Bernie Maddoff and Kenneth Lay who pay the price, but usually only after other members of the upper class themselves get ripped off.

Dalton is our hero. He's the guy who can make the rich people pay for their mistakes. His point was, I'm good enough to outsmart the untouchable upper class. I can beat them in the ultimate game of Chess. I can make them pay for their crimes. And, frankly, it would have made a great franchise if they took it further. Sort of like Oceans 11, but with a Robin Hood feel.


He wants to steal the bank and avenge the Jew family from Paris.

Dalton Russell is very good at creating confusion, as we can see in many scenes, so it is hard to know for sure, but I believe he is telling the truth in his introductory monologue.

Pay strict attention to what I say.

He keeps telling that his words are very precise and he does what he says. Of course, he does this to build a character and impress his antagonists, but also because it is way of working. He is not lying when he meet Frazier or White.

In particular, Madeleine White is very smart, has information on many important people and quickly understands that Russell is telling her the truth about the dark past of her employer. She then asks the critical question: How does Russell know about Chase's past?

We get the answer when Russell exits the bank and reunites with his accomplices: the Rabbi was part of the gang. We can guess that the Rabbi was directly or indirectly connected to the rich Jew family that Chase betrayed in Paris.


My theory, and I am sure others believe the same, is simple. The Clive Owen character is smart enough to not only plan the perfect robbery but get the right people to help make it happen... Those people?

First, the Jodi Foster character, who collects "friends" and sets everything in motion. Second, Owen and Foster find their true inside man, the one person that will take the fall if anything goes bad. That's right, the Denzel Washington character, who has everything to gain and nothing to lose because he is already in trouble.

Without the negotiating detective, the plan cannot happen and lo and behold, the case suddenly falls into his lap! Why? Because the Foster character sets other people in motion to help Washington "pretend" to work/negotiate/solve the case, while allowing the Owen character to have plenty of time - and distraction - to blackmail and steal from a war profiteer, for whom Foster is working as well. Since few of Owen's accomplices know the role Washington plays, they only see him briefly before he interrogates them later.

How is Washington paid for participating? First, he gets promoted, then has his debt/missing money wiped clean. Then, as part of the plan, his superior drops the case and guts it. Washington has played his role but inches closer to the truth, why? He wants to know more about the banker and what he is hiding, which leads to him "watching" the Clive Owen character simply walk out of the bank, like he promised and leave him not only a ring in the safety deposit box that never existed, that will point out to wrongdoing by the Plummer character, who owns the bank but also to receive his final payment, the diamond in his pocket that he can use for future cash or an engagement ring for his baby.

Great movie...

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .