Justice comes with a cost. At the age of 13, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) lost his officer father in the line of duty. The way his father went out, somewhat passively, has driven Andre, now a detective, to carry out justice his own way. While not a full on Dirty Harry type, he’s got no issues pulling the trigger on those of whom it’s warranted. 19 years later, he’s generally regarded as one of, if not the, best detectives in the state of New York.
On one particular night, they’re going to need his expertise. Two common criminals in Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch) are the perpetrators of a botched drug robbery in the early morning hours that sees them leave with 50 kilos of cocaine and leaving behind a wake of eight dead officers. Detective Davis ascertains that the keys need to be sold for cash and quickly, and the logical choice based on borough makeup is Manhattan, where the crime took place. Solution? Shut down the 21 Bridges in and out of the city, and Davis and Narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) should have their perps.
It’s hard to find anything glaringly bad about 21 Bridges. It’s hard to find anything spectacularly good about 21 Bridges. For anyone who generally enjoys cop flicks, all of the boxes are accounted for here. Setting (often one of NYC/LA/Chicago/Detroit/Atlanta)? Check. Corruption? Check. Foul language? Check. Shootouts and chases? Check. It’s a finely perfunctory view better suited for TNT or Netflix.
Did you hear? This movie is under the production of The Russo Brothers Anthony and Joe, along with star Boseman. If you have that trifecta associated, might as well push it. The direction is under the steering of Brian Kirk, probably more well known for episodes of Game of Thrones and Penny Dreadful than a filmography that shows this is only his 2nd full-length feature. His effort is stable; nothing choppy or overly chaotic like some similar genre fare can tend to be at times, with the standout scene being an on-foot pursuit across the congested streets. One does wish that it had more grit and grime befitting of the Big Apple though. Outside of this and the oft moments or two where dialogue is inaudible over the Henry Jackman score and/or just flat out delivered stiltedly, 21 Bridges passes a silver screen sobriety test.
Everything is pretty functional in 21 Bridges, including the screenplay co-written by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan. Credit to them on one level, as their script gets across a sense of urgency being that Andre and co. only have until 5AM until their lockdown manhunt is lifted. This ensures that in the 90 or so minute run time, there’s a propulsion that keeps matters moving forward. However, any and all twists are telegraphed and should be recognized with ease by anyone remotely familiar with the genre, with the reasons behind the twists essentially boiling down to “cops will be cops.” It leads to an unnecessary epilogue-like bow-tying final ten-to-twelve minutes that merely adds a mediocre shootout to the proceedings.
Outside of Message from the King, Draft Day, and Gods of Egypt (let’s forget about that), Boseman’s roles since becoming a star can be put into two categories: Marvel (King T’Challa), or legendary African-Americans (James Brown, Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall). Andre Davis isn’t a remarkable character (with that said his backstory is definitely underutilized), but it does provide Boseman a chance to do something else. He’s the right mix of by-the- book and off-the-cuff, and charismatic enough to carry a film without the weight of marketing behind it. And as for the rest of the cast, no one can be accused for a lack of trying. Kitsch and James, the former still dealing with the ramifications of an absolutely brutal 2012, make for a semi-interesting buddy bad guy team with a little more depth than anticipated. James, specifically, carries so much oomph and desperation in his performance, somewhat outshining Boseman in his own feature. It feels as if James has been around for a minute appearing in Race and If Beale Street Could Talk, and yet the man is only 25. He could be in for a big next decade.
The only surprising thing about 21 Bridges is when it was released. What’s the logic in moving from July 12th (Stuber, Crawl), to September 27th (Abominable), to only settle on November 22nd between the Disney machine launching Frozen 2 and the always lovable Tom Hanks as Mr. Rogers? Guaranteed critical and commercial success, even with a Marvel trifecta attached to it, is a bridge too far.
Photo credits go to express.co.uk, movieweb.com, and cinemablend.com.
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