Director: Brian Kirk
Starring: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Keith David, Stephan James and J.K. Simmons
Run time: 1h 39m
Chadwick Boseman swaps Black Panther (watch out for a cheeky reference within the first few moments) for the blue of the NYPD in 21 Bridges, a cop thriller about cop killers. Following in his father’s footsteps, Andre Davis (Boseman) is one of New York’s finest detectives, albeit one under investigation for leaving a high body count in his wake as he goes about his duty. As he says himself, he “never fired first”.
When a night-time robbery goes wrong and several police officers are savagely gunned down, Boseman arrives to be the boss-man. In an unprecedented move to catch the killers, all 21 bridges, four tunnels and three rivers that are used to enter and exit the island of Manhattan are shut down. With only a few hours before the city that never sleeps awakens, the pressure’s on to catch the bad guys before they disappear for good. Teaming up with a Narcotics officer (Miller) the pair untangle a web of corruption leaving themselves in the firing line and not knowing who to trust as the hunters becomes the hunted.
Although it doesn’t bring anything new to action thrillers, 21 Bridges is highly entertaining with some brutal set pieces and winning turns. The script is occasionally clichéd and the often overly dramatic bombastic score (with notes reminiscent of TV show Dragnet) threatens to overpower the narrative, but the bright lights of the big city look magnificent as cinematographer Paul Cameron uses gliding aerial shots to showcase the monumental volume of traffic coming from, and going into, the Big Apple.
J.K. Simmons is on typically fine form but is underused, Stephan James excels as he finds himself more and more out of his depth and Sienna Miller is almost unrecognisable in an understated performance, but this is very much Boseman’s film. Although his character is slightly one-dimensional, he has enough charisma to bring warmth to his somewhat dull and focused detective. Whether it’s enough to kick-start a new franchise for him remains to be seen.
At 99 minutes, director Brian Kirk keeps the pace moving along nicely, but he may have missed an opportunity in not showing the consequences of closing an entire city, given that’s the film’s main selling point. Nevertheless, 21 Bridges, is a taut, gritty journey with fine performances to keep it from falling down.
21 Bridges arrives in UK cinemas on Friday November 22.