Sunday, November 24, 2019

21 Bridges

I was going to make this a "new movie, new theater" review, but that would kind of be unfair because the ArcLight on Causeway Street doesn't really look finished yet - there's no permanent sign outside, the escalators aren't running yet, and there are a lot of spots where there are employers hanging around to make sure you go to the part of the building where they are showing movies rather than the part that's an unfinished construction site. As of right now, ArcLight Boston doesn't show up on their app and showtimes only started to appear on Fandango and the company's website yesterday, and still don't have showtimes listed after Monday (unless you want to reserve Star Wars tickets). It kind of feels overstaffed right now, as only a few people know it's open, to the point where the projectionist welcomed me to my private screening last night, and as a result there are a lot of people asking you if you enjoyed the movie on the way out or need help finding anything. Kind of weird, considering the rest of the place is built for you to both order tickets and snacks from kiosks.

I now find myself wondering if you even can pay cash anywhere but at the bar. Something to consider next time I try it out.

Coincidentally, I was writing about Bullitt yesterday, and while this isn't quite the same level of movie that is, I do wonder if director Brian Kirk has a bit of Peter Yates in him. This movie isn't often flashy but it's assured, often nailing down the action in a clear but unpretentious way the way Yates did. I don't know if Kirk has that sort of future, but he's made the sort of solid crime/action movie that I'd like to see more of even if I'd also like to see it done a bit better.

21 Bridges

* * * (out of four)
Seen 23 November 2019 in Arclight Boston #8 (first-run, DCP)

There's a sharper version of 21 Bridges to be made which targets the way police culture becomes toxic as opposed to mostly letting it kick around in the background, but I suspect that's a hard thing to believably isolate, and would bring in things the filmmakers weren't totally ready to deal with. As it is, it becomes a bigger version of a story we've heard a few times before, told with some style even if it misses an opportunity or two.

In the middle of the night, Micahel Trujillo (Stephan James) and Ray Stevens (Taylor Kitsch) rob a wine shop that they expect to have 30kg of cocaine in the basement; instead there's 300, more than they are ready to transport, and the manager of the shop has called the cops. Eight are shot in the ensuing firefight, and NYPD brings in Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) to direct the manhunt, teamed with narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), likely not in spite of his reputation for being willing to use lethal force, but because of it. It's quickly established that the pair are in Manhattan, so Andre urges the city to close off the island until daybreak. The NYPD intends to be utterly relentless in running the ones who took out so many of their own down to ground, but Trujillo and Stevens are ex-military, with Michael smart enough to be a match for Andre.

The film opens with a scene of Andre as a child, attending the funeral of his policeman father, and it's built to be unnerving, built out of wide shots of a church while the preacher speaks not of forgiveness and sacrifice but of anger and glee that he was able to take two of his attackers with him. When the film cuts to Andre's latest Internal Affairs meeting, it becomes clear that he's spent his whole life steeped in that culture, enough that his making the proper noises about not shooting first or indiscriminately surprises and upsets the other officers. It's a point of view that might be made clearer if the film offered more than fleeting glances at a perspective outside of the police or their quarry, questioning the way that the police seem to respond much more enthusiastically to an attack on themselves than the people they're meant to protect. That idea is what gives the film a great deal of its tension in the early going but becomes a little less prominent toward the end, as the plot needs Andre to close in and writers Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan don't really have the room to examine how corruption and entitlement are separate but entangled issues.

Full review on EFilmCritic

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