21 Bridges

Movie Information

The good cop/bad cops flick gets the job done, but isn't surprising or edgy.
Genre: Action/Thriller
Director: Brian Kirk
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons
Rated: R

The crime drama 21 Bridges hides its true agenda behind its name, but not for long. It’s clear early on that the opening robbery and shoot-out, resulting in the deaths of seven police officers, is more about police corruption than about hoodlums who did the killing. So the trailer-worthy premise — quarantine Manhattan by closing every bridge, tunnel, and transit system in and out — soon falls by the wayside. In its place is another good cop vs. bad cops, “the system is broken” narrative that has a dramatic conclusion but no real answers.

The good cop is Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman, aka Black Panther), a detective with a well-earned reputation for shooting crooks dead — always justifiably, of course. So when his fellow cops start hinting he’s the best man to deal with two stick-up artists whose drug theft turned especially bloody, their motives are immediately clear: the thieves need to be silenced, permanently.

Davis is paired with narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), and together the duo are soon hot on the trail of Michael (Stephan James, If Beale Street Could Talk) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch, slumming a bit after his complicated portrayal of David Koresh in the “Waco” miniseries). But Davis is soon more interested in cracking the precinct’s corrupt cabal than in gunning down the perps.

Directed by prestige TV director Brian Kirk (“Game of Thrones”; “The Tudors”), 21 Bridges is stylishly filmed, the director’s visual mastery, particularly in action scenes, making up for some of the screenplay’s repeated implausibilities. The dialogue is often smarter than the plot twists (save for one late surprise), and the casting of Oscar winner J.K. Simmons as a police captain practically telegraphs the role he’ll play.

Boseman, who established his acting chops in the biopics Marshall and 42, is a magnetic protagonist and keeps the confrontation scenes — lots of heated talk with guns drawn — taut and engaging. And it’s nice to see Miller in a meaty role where she isn’t someone’s wife or girlfriend.

But if anything in 21 Bridges is really supposed to be surprising or edgy, the movie doesn’t quite make the grade. It’s got a much bigger budget, sexier filmmaking and a degree more gravity than the similar Black and Blue, but it falls into the same Never Land where the police are both heroes and villains, and similarly gives up on trying to make dramatic sense of that duality in favor of a bang-up finale.


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