‘21 Bridges’ movie review: Slick, but unmemorable

Although entertaining, this Chadwick Boseman vehicle can’t reinvent the cop thriller genre

When two criminals, out to steal 30 kilos of uncut cocaine find 300 kilos, it’s clear that something fishy is afoot. Their hot tip has instead become an infernal furnace, ending in a deadly shoot-out against a handful of NYPD policemen, all of whom meet their maker at the hands of the thieves. A tight, tension-fuelled cat-and-mouse chase ensues. This is the premise of 21 Bridges, a seemingly tried-and-tested formula. But its time of release is pretty topical, especially when police brutality and racial profiling are dominating the discourse in America. The film, though does little more than offer a subtle hat tip to the issues.

With 21 Bridges, director Brian Kirk flips the switch, reversing the focus on what happens when cops are at the receiving end of brutal violence. Produced by Anthony and Joe Russo (Avengers: Infinity War and Endgame), the film’s spotlight is directed at the frustration and rage of hunting down two criminals. These are the same fugitives who could ruthlessly kill the folks, who risk their lives daily to protect a city.

21 Bridges

  • Director: Brian Kirk
  • Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Keith David, Taylor Kitsch, J. K. Simmons
  • Storyline: Manhattan’s 21 Bridges have been shut down to catch two cop killers on the run

Detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman), who’s lost his father to a cop killer in an altercation, has gained a reputation for being trigger happy. He’s the perfect candidate to hand out what criminals Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch) have coming. His partner-in-justice is detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller, with an exaggerated New York accent) from Narcotics. Such is the resolve to catch the fugitives, that Davis shuts down Manhattan’s 21 bridges in a complete lockdown over the course of a night.

It’s pretty evident from the get-go that Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay holds way more than meets the eye. But the revelation, when it arrives, is not quite shocking. The film, shines with Kirk’s slick sleight-of-hand, crafting a well-constructed thriller from start to end. Everything from tight camera work to the persistent pursuit of the protagonist on his quest keeps the audience engaged. Boseman is ever dedicated to playing his part as a valiant and ethical law enforcer. It’s especially impactful when everyone else’s scruples are questionable. Though Miller’s turn is almost recogniseable sans make-up with unruly hair and plain clothes, she’s just as riveting on screen. If there’s anything to fault with Kirk, it’s the decision to stretch out a storyline that leads to the film’s crux. Instead, more focus on the big reveal would have better actualised the film’s politics.

The film doesn’t breathe new life into the cop action thriller genre, in spite of mirroring the truth of a degrading society. It’s no doubt refined, polished, and entertaining, but that’s not enough to stay with an audience after the credits have rolled.

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