21 Bridges

Review by Rich Cline | 3/5

21 Bridges
dir Brian Kirk
scr Adam Mervis, Matthew Michael Carnahan
prd Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Chadwick Boseman, Logan Coles, Gigi Pritzker, Robert Simonds
with Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, JK Simmons, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Siddig, Keith David, Louis Cancelmi, Gary Carr, Darren Lipari, Victoria Cartagena, Morocco Omari
release US/UK 22.Nov.19
19/US STX 1h39

simmons james kitsch

boseman and miller
There's a tough-guy bluster to this police thriller that almost obscures the vapid script that holds it together. But while the actors add enough subtext to pull the audience in, the twists and turns of the plot never feel remotely original. Especially since there are far too many violent shootouts to count. Still, the gritty pacing and some more internalised attempts at drama help keep it moving.
New York detective Andre (Boseman) has policing in his blood, but has a reputation for shooting criminals. So when small-time drug thieves (Kitsch and James), armed to the teeth, kill eight cops during a robbery, Andre closes all 21 bridges out of Manhattan to trap them. Quickly identifying the killers, Andre and detective Frankie (Miller) corner the duo after they visit a drug dealer (Carr) and money launderer (Siddig). But street cops always seem ahead of them, led by their gruff captain (Simmons). And Andre begins to realise that something else is going on here.
The script reveals the main wrinkle right at the top, then tries to wrongfoot us about who's involved in this corrupt system. The usual MacGuffins drive the story, from the drug stash and bags of cash to a pivotal memory stick. Director Kirk propels things along relentlessly without making the film feel rushed, which is no mean feat. But even he can't paper over the plot's glaring holes, starting with the fact that closing the bridges is essentially irrelevant.

Boseman has superb presence as the saintly Andre, striding charismatically through each standoff and overcoming his hastily revealed backstory. James is the other standout as a baddie who isn't actually evil. Meanwhile, Miller exudes earthy energy in her role, fully inhabiting a woman who has to be tough-as-nails to take on the boys. But then, each character on-screen is bursting with attitude. And they all struggle to deliver the painfully clunky expository dialog.

Yes, this is a film that continually tells you what's happening, then shows you, then tells you again. This feels especially unnecessary since the plot is ludicrously simple, drawn more from cop TV series than real life. At least it looks cinematic, with seriously intense chases and vicious gunplay accelerating the intense mood, if not the suspense. Even with some feeble attempts to add thematic resonance (cops aren't paid enough to live!), there's nothing very memorable about this movie. As escapism, it might do the trick.

cert 15 themes, language, violence 19.Nov.19

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© 2019 by Rich Cline, Shadows on the Wall