Sunday, January 26, 2020

21 Bridges: A Review


Chadwick Boseman is one of the most talented and charismatic young actors working today. As such, it is thoroughly astonishing that 21 Bridges makes him into one of the most boring and bland characters in any film. It's a sign of how bad 21 Bridges is that not even his exceptional talent can lift such dismal material.

Detective Andre Davis (Boseman), son of a fallen police officer, has earned a reputation for pursuing criminals who kill police officers, the niceties of the law be damned. Now he finds himself pursuing perhaps the biggest case of his career.

Two criminals, hothead Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitch) and more thoughtful Michael Trujillo (Stephan James), go to a fancy restaurant to steal a stash of cocaine hiding there. To their surprise, the stash is not only much larger than they thought but they find themselves surprised by police officers who just so happen to show up at the same time.

A shootout ensues, with up to eight police officers getting killed. Davis and his partner Burns (Sienna Miller) now begin their hunt, and Davis gets the reluctant help of 85th Precinct Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) to close Manhattan and its '21 bridges' to trap our cop killers. However, Davis has until 5 a.m. before the bridges are opened.

As Davis and Burns close in on Ray and Michael, we get twists and turns in this race against time. Davis eventually tracks both down, but Ray and Michael are killed by the police, the latter by Burns herself. Michael, however, gives Davis some flashdrives that lead Davis to the mastermind of massive police corruption.

One guess as to who the mastermind is, and one more guess to know who else was involved.

Image result for 21 bridges movieIt does not seem totally fair to give a review given how often I kept drifting off to sleep during 21 Bridges. As such, perhaps the nuances of Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan's screenplay escaped me. However, from what I saw and remember in 21 Bridges, I saw a film that was wildly violent, almost gleefully so, but one where such things as character, plot and even sense went flying out the window.

Boseman looked almost bored throughout the film. While he's supposed to be a kind of super-cop I don't think his expression changed once throughout the film. It did not matter whether he was shooting at Ray or Michael, holding a dying Michael, realizing who was in on the corruption or in a shoot-out with the mastermind or the henchman, Boseman looked like he didn't care.

Then again, no one really acted in 21 Bridges. They just attempted to get through this to cash their check and hope no one noticed they were in the film. Miller is probably the most unintentionally funniest of the lot: her "Nuu Yawk" accent coming across as almost a spoof than a sincere stab at sounding like a cop from the Bronx. The script wants to 'develop' Burns by mentioning her infant daughter, but that only makes her decisions more odd to irrational.

Simmons similarly played his Captain McKenna as someone who knew he was going to be found out and didn't really bother trying to hide.

Alexander Siddig as the banker to the drug dealers didn't seem sure if he was supposed to play it up as camp or not. I do feel genuine sorrow for Kitch and James, in particular the latter. James, like Boseman, is a very talented actor and while he gave probably the best performance as Michael he too had little material to work with. Kitch had one mode: crazed, so I can't put his performance as something great.

Image result for 21 bridges
As a side note, and it may just be me, but why not hire actual Hispanics to play Hispanics? "Trujillo" is a Latin name, and while an Afro-Latino actor could have been cast, why did they opt to cast a Jamaican-Canadian?

The oddest casting/waste of talent is Keith David as Deputy Chief Spencer. David is one of the greats, with a rich, distinctive voice. However, for reasons I can't even guess at director Brian Kirk opted to essentially relegate him to two scenes and give him few lines.

To be fair though, I might have been dozing off when David was on screen, but given how well I think of Keith David, I find that hard to believe.

21 Bridges indulges in a great amount of bloody violence to where one wonders if the filmmakers, including producers Joe and Anthony Russo, have an almost pathological hatred for police given how the film loved blowing them away. That's not also counting the number of civilians who end up getting caught in the crossfire from the moment Ray and Michael begin their break-in to the final cop-on-cop shootout.

21 Bridges isn't even good as an action film, let alone a film with any thought. With everyone looking and acting bored, it's no wonder I found it boring, or at least sleep-inducing.


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