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In Theaters: 21 BRIDGES (2019)

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21 BRIDGES
(US/China - 2019)

Directed by Brian Kirk. Written by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan. Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons, Taylor Kitsch, Stephan James, Keith David, Alexander Siddig, Louis Cancelmi, Morocco Omari, Chris Ghaffari, Victoria Cartagena, Gary Carr, Dale Pavinski, Jamie Neumann, Jennifer Onvie, Adriane Lenox. (R, 99 mins)

Sometimes you just need a good old fashioned, big-city cop thriller and to that end, 21 BRIDGES gets the job done, even if it seems more like a January or an April release than something coming out just before Thanksgiving and the holiday season. Chadwick Boseman made his name on biopics (as Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in GET ON UP, and Thurgood Marshall in MARSHALL) before blowing up in Marvel's phenomenally successful BLACK PANTHER and two subsequent AVENGERS movies (in addition to his T'Challa earlier appearing in CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR). With 21 BRIDGES, Boseman gets to display some stoical, next-gen Denzel Washington gravitas as NYPD homicide detective Andre Davis, a by-the-book cop who's nonetheless painted as a trigger-happy loose cannon by Internal Affairs pencil-pushers since he's known as "the cop who kills cop-killers." All the instances were deemed justified, but Davis has a constant spotlight on him because of his family history: he was 13 when his dad, a beloved and highly decorated officer, was killed in the line of duty, and his superiors think he uses that traumatic event to appoint himself judge, jury, and executioner. But it's Davis who gets called in as the lead investigator after a midnight shootout in Brooklyn leaves eight cops dead following the heist of a massive uncut cocaine stash in the basement of a posh winery. The two perps are a pair of Afghanistan war vets, both lifelong troublemakers with mile-long rap sheets: short-fused maniac Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) and his reluctant accomplice Michael Trujillo (Stephan James). It's Jackson who blew all the cops away while Michael unsuccessfully tried to contain the situation, and now it's 1:00 am and they're forced to unload all the coke they could grab (they were told 30 kilos and they found 300), launder the money, and get out of town.






That becomes impossible after Davis has all 21 bridges leading into and out of Manhattan--along with all the subways going to the other boroughs--closed and the whole island put on lockdown, against the wishes of the FBI, who are giving him until 5:30 am to find the killers before it's his ass and they take over the case. On the orders of Brooklyn's 85th Precinct Capt. McKenna (J.K. Simmons), Davis is paired with narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller, really chewing on that Noo Yawk accent), and they remain consistently one step behind Jackson and Trujillo. But the more Davis digs into the details, the more something seems off. Why did the cops show up at the winery without being called? And how did the cops know that Jackson and Trujillo were at the home of money launderer Adi the Cleaner (Alexander Siddig)? Is it possible that Jackson and Trujillo got themselves involved in a situation that went way beyond a simple coke deal and were being set up by their shady contact (Louis Cancelmi)? Could it be that Davis was called into this case specifically because of his reputation for blowing away cop killers? Are these two particular cop killers being set up to take the fall as part of a conspiracy that may involve those sworn to uphold the law and will do whatever it takes to protect the shield? Have you ever seen a dirty cop movie before?


Yes, 21 BRIDGES is extremely formulaic and there's little suspense insofar as who the corrupt cops are, but more about how long it will be before Davis figures it out (boy, that one prominent character sure does linger in the background taking a few too many personal calls, huh?). It's the kind of movie where someone gives someone else a flash drive with damning information and that person takes one cursory glance at some random numbers and dollar amounts and instantly concludes "These are badge numbers!" It's the kind of movie where someone mentions the perps' car was spotted in Chinatown and there's an immediate cut to a rundown neighborhood with nothing but neon Chinese-lettered signs, yet the filmmakers still feel the need to include the caption "Chinatown." The script by Adam Mervis (whose original treatment was titled 17 BRIDGES until someone realized there were 21) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (WORLD WAR Z, DEEPWATER HORIZON) won't win any points for innovation, and Philadelphia isn't always convincing in its portrayal of Manhattan, but 21 BRIDGES has a solid lead in Boseman, and veteran TV director Brian Kirk (THE TUDORS, LUTHER, BOARDWALK EMPIRE, GAME OF THRONES) does a good job with keeping up the pace and suspense in the race-against-the-clock, survive-the-night scenario. It also has some well-done action and chase scenes courtesy of second-unit director and revered stunt coordinator Spiro Razatos, who's been busy working on various mega-budget FAST & FURIOUS and Marvel movies (likely where he crossed paths with Boseman), but here makes a return--at least in spirit--to the B-movie wheelhouse of his early days on William Lustig and Larry Cohen joints like the MANIAC COP franchise and THE AMBULANCE (a young Razatos also did that insane stunt facing off against an overturning car in 1987's SILENT NIGHT, DEADLY NIGHT PART 2). 21 BRIDGES isn't destined for anything other than constant rotation on cable until the end of time, and it doesn't have an original thought in its head, but it's the kind of diverting enough entertainment that sufficiently scratches that itch when you want some empty calorie cop movie junk food.


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