21 Bridges movie review: As the film drags even in its crisp length of 90 minutes, you know the reason for it is that the film has little to say.
21 Bridges movie cast: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, J K Simmons, Stephen James, Taylor Kitsch
21 Bridges movie director: Brian Kirk
21 Bridges movie rating: 1.5 stars
Dirty cops, a slimy drug racket, grimy New York, and one long night of chase. There is little to recommend in 21 Bridges that you haven’t seen before, and the film doesn’t even make an effort to get you to care.
Several good actors, and charismatic ones like Boseman and Miller, are wasted in this by-the-book crime thriller that seems even more ridiculous as it builds up to its climax. Unnecessary details are thrown in about good cop Andre’s (Boseman) family life, and Miller’s motherly status, even as the two apparent hotshots can’t spot some glaring clues right under their noses.
The only way such a film can work is if it leaves at least the audience in doubt, but there is no effort at that either as Andre asks for Manhattan to be shut down (the 21 bridges in and out to be closed, that is) as he and Burns (Miller) chase down two men who have just shot seven cops during a drug robbery.
First-time big screen director Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones) stages the shootouts, of which there are many, well, keeping dialogue minimal and shots flying. That may be the best part of the film: its realisation that it doesn’t really need to fill in all the silences or to spell out everything.
But as the film drags even in its crisp length of 90 minutes, you know the reason for it is that the film has little to say.
When it does zoom out for the big picture, mostly via police boss McKenna (Simmons), it is to make the kind of arguments that even the bad guys know must be sheathed if they want to get away unscathed: like how poorly treated cops are by the general public; like shooting before asking questions is how justice should be done; like justice “comes at a cost”; like why waste one’s time in trial etc when there are quicker ways of dealing with things. All these are poor excuses eventually for good, old corruption.
As Andre who carries a silent rage at how his father, also a police officer, was killed — even as he does the right things — Boseman (the ‘Black Panther’ of Marvel films) is charismatic as ever. As far as scene stealers go, he has tough competition in James as Michael, one of the two drug thieves (the other being the skittish Kitsch) for whom a regular hit job has turned into a nightmare. A face-off between Andre and Michael, who spell nobility around their anguished selves, could have been a worthy movie.
As for Miller, in a film full of men in sharp suits and smart uniforms, she plays a narcotics detective in an oversized jacket, T-shirt and baggy trousers. You wish that was a feminist statement, given all the women detectives one has had chasing criminals down in deep Vs and heeled shoes. However, there may be a simpler explanation: her status as a harried mother.