Chadwick Boseman is a fantastic actor, loaded with talent and looks. He has made quite an impression playing Black Panther, Jackie Robinson, James Brown and the first black Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall. So when I saw the trailer for 21 Bridges I was interested. Never mind the fact that it looked like a tired retread of other cop films. Chadwick Boseman can do anything. Add in Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons, Taylor Kitsch and Keith David, how bad could this possibly be? Well, it is not awful but it is not that good either.
21 Bridges tells the story of a driven cop, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) who is under investigation by Internal Affairs for discharging his weapon and killing a suspect. It is explained that Andre has discharged his weapon more than other officers in the past and the implication is that he is abusing his power as a police officer; excessive force. Anyone who knows Andre knows this cannot be true.
As the film opens there is an impressive funeral procession with Andre as a young boy, whose father has just been brutally murdered by a suspect. Andre has carried that trauma with him his entire life and it has only made him an even fiercer officer of the law. When a botched robbery ends in the deaths of eight of his fellow officers, Andre is assigned to the case. “There are 21 Bridges in and out of Manhattan. Shut them all down until we get our killers.” Hence, the title and we have our film.
21 Bridges is not an awful film, as I stated. It has an impressive cast and everyone is doing their best to keep this material afloat. It is watchable, let’s just say. But the story and script by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan is so derivative of other cop and robber films that 21 Bridges sinks into a sea of oblivion along with all of the other by-the-numbers police thrillers. You have shootouts, car chases and fight scenes and they are all competently staged but I could not help feeling like I have been-here, done-that before.
The acting is superb with Boseman showing that he has charisma to burn. Sienna Miller is quite good as an undercover narcotics officer who definitely looks the part complete without makeup and tired with bags under her eyes. She is a beautiful woman, in reality, but it is clear, here, that she went the extra mile to look like she really was in the trenches and it works. J.K. Simmons is fine as Andre’s captain. Keith David is completely wasted, however as Deputy Chief Spencer. In fact, his screen time is so small, anyone could have played this part. Why have a legend like Keith David in your film and relegate him to about five minutes of screen time? Stephen James and Taylor Kitsch are both excellent actors but their characters are so paper thin, I really did not connect with their objective at all.
There are supposed to be surprises that didn’t surprise me at all. There are supposed be twists and turns that I saw coming a mile off and what is an efficiently and competently made film turns out to be your standard, by-the-numbers cop film. Irish director Brian Kirk has only directed one feature length film in his long career; a film called Middletown from 2009. The remainder of his career has been directing films, episodes and miniseries exclusively on television. That is not a slight against Mr. Kirk but that is what 21 Bridges feels like; a good television movie of the week. That is where this film plays best. Save your money and watch Michael Mann’s Heat, instead.
21 Bridges – **1/2 out of five
21 Bridges – Rated R for language, gore and explicit violence
21 Bridges – Run time is 99 minutes
21 Bridges is now available on DVD, On Demand and subscription services.