Published on November 21st, 2019 | by Michael Newman0
In the 80’s there was an abundance of cop related dramas, whether taking on Al Capone or waging personal war against Apartheid, these films all featured lots of gun fights, with the body counts wracking up and rarely any consequences in doing so. While 21 Bridges shares a lot of what made these cop dramas popular with fans, it attempts to bring some realism to the forefront.
Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) has become a common name with Internal Affairs, a man who as a child attended his father’s funeral. A decorated policeman who was killed at the hands of 3 thugs, two of which his father took with him. In the opening scene it is clear that Andre is known for the sheer number of kills he’s made as an officer of the peace, each one justified and he never drew first.
He is called to a scene of what appears to have been a drug deal gone bad. Eight police officers responding to a robbery in progress are gunned down by two assailants (Stephen James and Taylor Kitsch) who have escaped with a large supply of cocaine. Anxious to bring these cop killers to justice, he enlists the help of the Fed’s to shut down Manhattan before they can escape the island and disappear. The Feds agree to shut down all bridges (21, hence the name), subways, waterways and train stations for a few hours, with the agreement that if they are not apprehended by 5AM that they would have no choice but to open everything up again. With the help of Narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) the two must work against the clock, following clues and a slew of dead bodies to uncover the reason behind the killings and restore peace.
21 bridges feels like a throwback to the cop movies of the past, full of furious action and non-stop thrills. The movie shoots out of the gate at full speed and doesn’t stop until it’s end credits roll roughly one and a half hours later. The movie is very predictable, and likely won’t require you to put on your nicest sleuthing hat to figure it out. However, as a flat-out cop action drama it certainly doesn’t try to be anything else. There are no witty one-liners, or bouts of levity, this is hardcore, in your face drama. A movie that attempts to be as gritty as the seedy underbelly that it attempts to expose.
Boseman, as we have come to expect, does a fantastic job as the well-respected detective. Sienna Miller portrays her role as an overworked and underpaid narcotics officer brilliantly. The two of them make an exceptional team, although with so much going on, we rarely see their relationship grow from anything more then two individuals thrust together by unfortunate circumstances. J.K. Simmons completes the trio as police captain McKenna, pushing for Andre, to do what he is known to do best, take out the killers and avoid any legal entanglements in the process.
For all the things 21 Bridges does well, it feels a bit too rushed throughout. The drama that is built up with the decision to close down Manhattan seemed a bit to easy and almost as part of an afterthought. While it’s explained that it’s early in the morning and most are sleeping, for a city that is known to never sleep it feels as though the closure was as simple as placing signs around flooded out washes to keep people from getting stranded. The ease at which the killers are tracked and identified makes the closure of the city practically not important, as they never seem to have a chance to even attempt to make an escape. What should have been (and could have been) the very real drama of what it takes to shut down access to a city, is completely ignored and forgotten as quickly as it occurs.
21 Bridges has all the makings of what could have been a memorable movie going experience. It has a fantastic cast, an interesting premise, and a grittiness that seems to be missing in many cop dramas these days. It’s unfortunate that the setting and the cast are let down with the speed of the script and the ease of the chase. There are no unpredictable twists and turns, as much as I wish there had been and it plays it very safe. The movie is a lot like a roller coaster, a somewhat slow buildup, and then a rush downhill, around some corners and then coming to an abrupt end. It’s fun to enjoy the ride, but at the end of the day its memory will fade like the twilight hours that it takes place in.
3 out of 5 stars