21 Bridges Sept 14, 2020 17:18:04 GMT -5
Post by StevePulaski on Sept 14, 2020 17:18:04 GMT -5
21 Bridges (2019)
Directed by: Brian Kirk
Directed by: Brian Kirk
J. K. Simmons, Chadwick Boseman, and Sienna Miller.
NYPD officer Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) has a reputation for hunting down and offing "cop-killers," a label he doesn't accept, claiming self-defense in all the instances. It's not hard to understand why he's gotten the label, however, as the opening sequence of 21 Bridges shows Davis as a teenager attending the funeral for his father slain in the line of duty. 19 years later, he patrols the same streets dad did. The moral complications of a black police officer in today's America are vast, but Davis can't tolerate someone who pulls on a gun on a man with a badge.
This is one of the chief reasons he finds himself so rocked by a drug bust gone awry in Manhattan. The job was supposed to be easy for the two criminals (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch), who decided to ransack a winery and pick up a few kilos of cocaine in their travels. They not only find far more kilos than they expected, but also an unexpected ambush, which leaves eight cops killed. The two men are still at large in the late hours of the evening, with time of the essence for Davis and his fellow officers. With the FBI reluctantly relinquishing temporary control of the investigation to the NYPD, Davis orders the entire island, including all of its 21 bridges, be shut down immediately. "Flood the island with blue," he says.
Alongside Davis is Captain McKenna (J. K. Simmons), a respected leader of his precinct, and narcotics investigator Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) assigned as his partner. While in hot pursuit of the thieves, Davis soon realizes upon coming face-to-face with James' Michael that the cops he silently vows to protect at all costs aren't so clean themselves.
While the aesthetics and the juxtaposed storylines of Davis/Burns versus the two thieves are deftly handled, 21 Bridges mistakes its statewide manhunt as the more interesting plot, when in reality, it's the shady cops that are responsible for the ensuing violence. For a concept centered around entrapment, there is also no sense of claustrophobia, much less an emphasis on bridges — a peculiar omission given the film's title. You'd assume a film where a statewide lockdown (as if we, as a whole, aren't familiar with what one of those looks like given the current state of society) is at the epicenter of the action, we'd find ourselves in tight streets, smothering quarters, or some combination of the two. The fact is, Manhattan has never looked and felt larger than it does in 21 Bridges.
Maybe some of this comes at the expense of director Brian Kirk's background, which is largely in television, where procedural programs about police-work ordinarily culminate in large-scale plots and settings. However, even in the ensuing manhunt, we don't feel gridlocked, and it's downright unusual for a film to abandon the concept on which it's predicated.
Screenwriters Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan (The Kingdom) do the film a disservice insofar that they cram so much into what could've been a taut 100 minutes. They flood the film with moral quandaries and institutionalized corruption they simply do not have the time to develop. Davis and his deep respect for law enforcement already serves as meaty subtext given he's a black officer in the middle of the #BlackLivesMatter movement. Michael's fall from grace and turn to crime invites the thought of which group is fueling the other, in terms of police busting drug kingpins to whom they have monetary ties, into the picture, but it's far too undercooked to be impacting. There are copious missed opportunities in the narrative that leave you pondering these musings to yourself shortly after you've settled in and realized 21 Bridges is another generic cop thriller.
What mostly elevates Kirk's film is the performances, starting with Chadwick Boseman, proving he gave a sense of gravity to every role, regardless of the narrative quality around it, and will be dearly missed. Simmons provides a similar sense of gravitas, as he often does, with his crunching forehead and stern vocal tone combined with his body language. Meanwhile, Miller, a bit sidelined in later scenes, still creates an urgent presence out of someone who could've been an ancillary character. This trio holds 21 Bridges together effectively enough to keep your interest, and all are operating amidst a sleek, nighttime Manhattan cityscape beautifully captured by cinematographer Paul Cameron.
Moreover: when you're waxing poetic about a police drama yet praising everything around the central storyline, therein lies your flaws. Thankfully, despite many of them, 21 Bridges is saved from a freefall thanks to a committed cast and at the very least a cogent handling of two distinctive storylines.
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, J. K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, and Taylor Kitsch. Directed by: Brian Kirk.