[Screen It]


(2019) (Naomi Harris, Tyrese Gibson) (R)

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Dramatic Thriller: A rookie cop must contend with being framed for the murder of a young drug dealer by a corrupt narcotics detective.
Military vet Alicia West (NAOMIE HARRIS) has recently joined the New Orleans Police Department where she's been partnered with Kevin Jennings (REID SCOTT). Her patrol area is her former stomping grounds before she enlisted in the Army, but her best friend from years ago, Missy (NAFESSA WILLIAMS), wants nothing to do with her, while convenience store employee Milo Jackson (TYRESE GIBSON) is also cold toward her due to lack of police response when needed in his neighborhood that's otherwise controlled by drug kingpin Darius (MIKE COLTER).

When Kevin can't pull a double shift due to a family commitment, Alicia offers to take his place and is teamed up with veteran cop Deacon Brown (JAMES MOSES BLACK). But little does she know that he's on the take and in cahoots with undercover narcotics officer Terry Malone (FRANK GRILLO) and his partner Smitty (BEAU KNAPP). That comes to a head when she happens upon Malone as he executes a young drug dealer -- who just so happens to be Darius' nephew -- and then finds herself the target of the bad cops who want to kill her before she rats them out.

From that point on, and after taking refuge in the store where Milo works, Alicia must contend with now being hunted not only by the cops, but also Darius and his men who, like the rest of the police force, have been lied to by Malone that Alicia is, in fact, the killer of the young man.

OUR TAKE: 5 out of 10
Back in 1979 a little action flick called "The Warriors" hit theaters and while it was derided by many critics at the time, I recall finding it to be a taught little thriller about a New York City gang that, after being framed for murdering a rival gang leader, must make their way across the city from the Bronx to Coney Island. I haven't seen it since then, so it's hard to say how I'd react now, but it has achieved something of a cult status, including among contemporary reviewers.

Far more recently -- in 2001 to be exact -- "Training Day" came out and was near-universally positively received by reviewers and the general public alike. I was clearly one of them and was captivated by the tale of a young cop (Ethan Hawke) who ends up partnered with a veteran narcotics detective (Denzel Washington) who ends up not being what the rookie thought.

Whether intentional or just by accident, we now have something of a combo of both tales in "Black and Blue." It's the story of a rookie cop (Naomi Harris) who uncovers corruption in the police department, namely in the form of murder. She must then make her way through the bad neighborhood streets of New Orleans while targeted both by those bad police officers (who want her body cam and its footage of their act) and a gang of drug dealers who've been lied to by said cops that she killed one of their young dealers.

Beyond the similarities to those aforementioned films, we've certainly seen various aspects of this sort of story before and that familiarity and derivative nature steals some of the film's thunder and emotional impact. And I think screenwriter Peter A. Dowling probably could have created a more maze-like trap from which the protagonist would have to escape and a cleverer and more imaginative array of obstacles and setbacks to overcome.

That said, enough of the flick works -- thanks a great deal to Harris' performance -- that those who like thrillers where the odds are bad for the hero and the number of characters trying to get them are high will probably find some or all of this to their liking.

Harris' Alicia West is a military vet (a story element that's underutilized, especially when it comes to getting her hands on some greater firepower than is typically issued on the local police level) who's now a rookie cop. When she takes a double shift originally slated for her regular cop partner (Reid Scott), she ends up working with veteran cop Deacon Brown (James Moses Black).

Well, wouldn't you just know that despite having just saved her life, he's a bad cop in cahoots with two dirty narc detectives (Frank Grillo and Beau Knapp) and she just so happen to walk in on them shooting the young drug-dealing nephew to the local drug kingpin (Mike Colter). And since cops wear body cams nowadays, she captures the old thing on video.

And then the chase begins, with only local convenience store employee Milo Jackson (Tyrese Gibson) begrudgingly helping her stay out of harm's way which, of course, places him in exactly that himself. Despite this local being her old, pre-military, pre-cop stomping grounds, no one else wants to help her and thus she can't trust anyone in her attempt to survive and get that footage to someone good.

The result is decent, but not as much fun as I recall "The Warriors" being or with the same sort of Oscar-level performance of "Training Day." Director Deon Taylor gets some decent mileage out of the action scenes, and as long as you don't think about all of the movies featuring bad cops and/or those where the criminals want a certain cop dead, you might go along for the ride. I just wish all involved somehow could or would have spiced things up a bit to differentiate it from such past offerings. As it stands, "Black and Blue" ends up earning a middle of the road score of 5 out of 10.

Reviewed October 9, 2019 / Posted October 25, 2019

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