[Screen It]


(2019) (Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: An NYPD detective shuts down Manhattan in order to find two cop killers who are on the loose.
Having grown up as the son of a cop who was killed in the line of duty, NYPD detective Andre Davis (CHADWICK BOSEMAN) is determined to stop all of the bad guys that he can, fully believing that justice comes at a cost. Of course, that and the fact that he's killed a number of criminals over the years has given him a bad reputation, but he's exactly the sort of man that Captain McKenna (J.K. SIMMONS) wants to find two cop killers -- Michael (STEPHAN JAMES) and Ray (TAYLOR KITSCH) -- who are on the loose.

Teamed with narcotics detective Frankie Burns (SIENNA MILLER), Andre orders that all ways out of Manhattan be shut down overnight as they try to hone in on the two criminals who are trying to unload the kilos of cocaine they've just stolen and find a way off the island.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
When it comes to the game of hide and seek, the more places there are to hide, obviously all the better not to be found. Thus, if one can hide in a house that's obviously better than out in the backyard. Extrapolating that to a much grander scale it would clearly be more advantageous to hide in a city than out in the open countryside. And the bigger the city and the greater the number of tall buildings would be to the benefit of those hiding rather than those seeking.

Of course, in the "old days" before surveillance cameras were used to spot a license plate or face, it was fairly easy to disappear among the populace and building structures. But nowadays, with big brother "eyes" pretty much everywhere, it would obviously be considerably easier to find, track and then nab someone. That's part of the gist of "21 Bridges," although the "game" in play is far more serious -- not to mention deadly -- than the old children's game.

Directed by Brian Kirk who works from a script by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan, the film has a very basic premise. Two bad guys -- Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch) -- have gunned down eight cops during a cocaine theft in New York City and it's up to detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) to find them before they exit Manhattan.

With narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) as his temporary partner and Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) wanting to avenge his men's murders, Andre orders that the city's twenty-one bridges (not to mention tunnels, railways and waterways -- which would have made for an awkwardly long title) be closed to hem in the perps to the borough's nearly 23-square miles before everything has to be reopened in the morning.

And that's basically it for the story beyond a brief prologue showing Andre as a 13-year-old at his cop father's funeral with his mother who we see, nineteen years later, is living with him and suffers from dementia. We also see him at an Internal Affairs Q & A where we learn that the cop has gunned down a number of criminals over the past few years and feels no regret, saying that justice comes at a cost.

But that's it for character depth or development (we know very little about the bad guys, nothing about Simmons' character and Miller's only defining characteristic, presented via dialogue, is being a single mom). Of course, the film is otherwise solely focused on being a cat and mouse thriller where the detective tries to figure out the perps' next moves, narrow down his search and then catch them.

Kirk follows the visual cues of what director Andrew Davis (among others in similar films) did in "The Fugitive" in using overhead, look down camera shots designed to show the city as an immense maze of sorts. While that's initially fairly gripping, the gun action is nearly of Michael Mann quality, and Boseman brings a definite gravitas to the role, things end up feeling increasingly redundant as the 99-minute film plays out.

And it doesn't help that the big "surprises" of the third act are, well, not that surprising as they're fairly easy to predict. In the end, "21 Bridges" is a competent but otherwise unremarkable cop procedural that starts off strong but gets bogged down like being stuck in a Manhattan traffic jam. It rates as a 5 out of 10.

Reviewed November 18, 2019 / Posted November 22, 2019

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