21 Bridges

21 Bridges to go: Chadwick Boseman corners two cop killers
Verdict: 
6/10 - 21 Bridges has promising ideas and performances, that sadly fail to deliver
Release Date: 
Saturday, November 23, 2019
Written by: 

Chadwick Boseman stars as a homicide detective who hunts down two cop killers in 21 Bridges.

6

After hitting the big time in the Marvel movie Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman has become a sought-after leading man, and now gets his own police action thriller 21 Bridges.

Boseman plays New York homicide cop Andre Davis, a detective who claims the force is "in his DNA" as his dad was killed on duty.

Despite his talents, he's built a reputation as being trigger-happy with suspects, which has won him both admirers and enemies on the force.

He's just the man to call, however, when two crooks, Michael and Ray (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch) shoot seven police officers dead while raiding a restaurant used as a hub for a cocaine-dealing operation.

Andre and his narcotics department partner Frankie (an almost unrecognisable Sienna Miller) determine justice should be harsh and swift - railroading the F.B.I. and Mayor into shutting all routes out of Manhattan (the 21 Bridges of the title) overnight, giving them just hours to catch the perpetrators.

Although Andre is ruthlessly efficient in cornering his criminal quarry, he discovers there may be more to the crime than a pair of ruthless cop killers running amok after a botched cocaine heist.

 

The film is very much a nuts and bolts crime caper - with well-directed chases interspersed with ruminations on each character.

In this respect, it is James who steals the show as Michael - a career criminal whose conflicts play a major part in furthering the plot.

Boseman, who also helped produce the film (alongside Infinity War and Endgame directors The Russo Brothers), is magnetic without really displaying his full acting range, but this is down to his role being underwritten.

Early on, we see Andre looking after his dementia-stricken mother, yet this side to his character is seemingly dropped to focus on chase scenes and gunplay.

Similarly, Miller throws herself into her role, but although we learn she is a doting mother, as well as a cop, we are never really shown the duelling motivations this should create in a detective who has to be ruthless and cold-hearted in her job.

That's not to say 21 Bridges is a bad film - it's a reasonable pot-boiler with fine, if stilted, performances.

The always-excellent J.K. Simmons also pops up as a precinct chief, but the movie is at its best when we are focusing on the criminals rather than the cops.

As a result, in the film's second half, when the camera is turned more towards Andre and Frankie's investigation, momentum is squandered slightly, and its emotional impact is lost, as both Boseman and Miller's characters veer towards cardboard cliche rather than the deeper three-dimensional protagonists they are set up as.

The result is something of a missed opportunity. 21 Bridges is well directed by Brian Kirk, with a number of scenes where criminals and cops stalk each other putting you on the edge of your seat, and has several interesting ideas about duty, opportunity, and the nature of criminality bubbling below the surface.

But these are sadly ignored in favour of a final act that feels like the kind of film that would have, once upon a time, been an inferior Mel Gibson vehicle.

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