“21 BRIDGES”: Long night’s journey
Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller
My rating: C (Opens wide on Nov. 22) | 99 minutes | MPAA rating: R
Published November 21, 2019 by Robert W. Butler at Butler’s Cinema Scene
To the extent that it delivers a series of adrenaline-stoked action sequences and a ridiculously high body count, Brian Kirk’s “21 Bridges” should satisfy audiences looking for a thrill.
And that’s about it.
Not even the presence of the versatile Chadwick Baseman (whose roles range from Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall to the Black Panther) and the eerily transforming Sienna Miller can elevate this piece above “mehhh” status.
The first half of Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay (and by far the better half) is a manhunt told from the points of view of two couples — a pair of crooks on the run and a pair of cops on their heels.
In the opening sequence a couple of well-armed thugs, Michael and Ray (Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch) hit a posh New York City restaurant late at night after closing. They’ve been told there’s 30 kilos of cocaine hidden in the eatery; they are perplexed to discover it’s more like 300 kilos, way more than they can carry out.
To further complicate matters, a bunch of cops show up. Maybe they are looking for a late-night snack. In any case, there’s a gun battle that leaves eight of New York’s finest headed to the morgue. The perps take off running.
Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch
The filmmakers at least try for plausible back stories. Michael and Ray are ex-military; Ray is by far the more ruthless of the two, but Kitsch gives him just enough charisma to keep us interested. Michael basically finds himself in over his head.
On the other side of the coin are detectives Andre Davis (Boseman) and Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller, almost unrecognizable with no makeup), thrown together to manage a city-wide manhunt for the cop killers.
Again, an attempt is made to provide some depth to the characters. Davis is himself the son of a slain cop who regularly faces Internal Affairs hearings for his marksmanship (eight fatal shootings in as many years); he maintains he never fires first. Burns is a single mom with a Brooklyn accent.
To keep the crooks from leaving town, Davis imposes a 1 a.m.-to-sunup closure of all 21 bridges leading into and out of Manhattan Island. He’s got five hours before the quarantine will be lifted and rush hour begins. (Thus the movie’s title…though once the roads are blocked the film never returns to them. Another title would have been “21 Body Bags.”)
An already perplexing case is made even more unmanageable by the dead officers’ revenge-minded colleagues (J.K. Simmons plays their precinct chief). These cops have a bad habit of killing witnesses before Davis can interview them.
In the film’s second half it dawns on Davis that there may be more to this case than meets the eye…we’re talking corruption in high places. (And you can only imagine the paperwork demanded of our hero after personally killing a dozen people.)
“21 Bridges” has been well made. The acting is OK. The shots of NYC at night are sometimes eerily atmospheric.
On the whole, though, the film is more blah than bad. Instantly forgettable.
| Robert W. Butler
Read the original review and more reviews at Butler’s Cinema Scene
Robert W. Butler for 41 years reviewed films for the Kansas City Star. In May 2011 he was downsized.
He couldn’t take the hint.
OKAY, so here’s the deal. I write mostly about movies. One good thing about no longer writing for the paper is that I’m free to ignore the big dumb Hollywood turkeys that don’t interest me. So don’t expect every blessed release to be written about here. Many films aren’t worth the effort. Besides, at my age it’s not the $8. It’s the two hours.
UPDATE: OCTOBER, 2014: Well, here’s an interesting twist. The Star wants me back as a freelance film reviewer!!! Apparently enough time has passed that they cannot be accused of firing me so that they can rehire me at a fraction of my original pay (I gather the federal government frowns upon that practice.) So from now on I will probably be reviewing a movie a week for the newspaper.