It’s a compelling drama from familiar subject matter, but is it compelling enough to see in theaters? Our movie critic offers insight.
WATCH THE TRAILER(S) HERE:
KEY CAST MEMBERS: Chadwick Boseman, Stephan James, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Siddig, Morocco Omari and J.K. Simmons
DIRECTOR(S): Brian Kirk
THE BACK STORY: Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a detective in New York City. He had to be. It’s in his DNA, or at least that’s how he puts it. And given that his father was murdered on duty by three men – one of whom lived – his dedication to bringing criminals to justice rivals that of D.C. Comics’ biggest crimefighter Bruce Wayne. But while Batman may keep watch over a fictional Gotham, Andre is entrenched deep in New York City, which is why Internal Affairs is looking into his latest episode where he added to his growing body count of alleged criminals.
Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) and his partner Michael (Stephan James) don’t know Davis, but they soon will. For when it turns out the heist they’re involved in features 300 kilos of cocaine and not the 30 they were expecting, something seems off. Throw in an ensuing gun battle with a group of police officers who just so happen to show to the restaurant they’re robbing as if they were supposed to be there and Ray and Michael know something is wrong.
Arriving to the aftermath, Andre finds himself paired up with another detective, Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) and a police captain in McKenna (J.K. Simmons) who want revenge moreso than justice for what has transpired. Quickly surmising the situation, Andre realizes the perpetrators have to still be in the city – which is why he orders all 21 bridges leading out of Manhattan closed. But the clock is ticking on Andre and Frankie … So there is no time to waste if they are going to catch the men responsible for what has happened.
THE REVIEW: While he has had plenty of roles in his acting career, Boseman has essentially become known for playing two kinds of people: Famous dead black people (Jackie Robinson in 42, James Brown in Get On Up and Thurgood Marshall in Marshall) and a certain costumed superhero from a fictional African country that helps save the world.
21 Bridges showcases the depth of his talent – along with that of co-star James – to deliver an entertaining film despite having a very all-too-familiar style story with which to work.
Cops, robbers and conspiracy/cover tales are nearly as old as movies themselves; 21 Bridges doesn’t really do anything dynamic in regards to telling this type of tale (you can probably figure out most of what’s happening an hour or so into the film). What director Brian Kirk does do, however, is wisely present a stage where (1) the action sequences don’t feel forced and instead intense; (2) let Boseman take center stage and allow him to deliver a performance that is gripping enough to keep you interested as he breaks down scenarios and (3) trusts his actors, particularly Kitsch and James, to make their characters motivations, emotions and decisions relatable. Whereas last month’s Black and Blue dealt more with the issue of the thin blue line and which side of it African-Americans (both as police and possible perpetrators) fall on it, 21 Bridges is a standard tale of good vs. evil.
Whereas Boseman does a good job of playing the by-the-book-cop, he also does it enough style where it doesn’t feel so textbook that it lacks appeal. The same can be said for James, the co-star of the overlooked stellar 2018 release If Beale Street Could Talk. Giving his character a sense of humanity often lacking in shoot-em-up movies, watching Boseman and James play off each other adds to what would otherwise be another mash up of films that you’ve seen before.
Thus, while no one would – or should – expect 21 Bridges to do anything close to Black Panther business, it’s definitely worth seeing if you want to see Boseman flex his acting chops outside of spandex or a historical figure’s shadow.