Tuesday Review – 21 Bridges (2019)

films, reviews

Rating: 3 out of 5.

It was genuinely shocking to wake up on Saturday morning to the news that Chadwick Boseman had died after battling cancer since 2016. The actor had kept his medical struggles a secret even as he carried on working. Think about it, he’s given us 3 turns as T’Challa, a biopic about Thurgood Marshall, and Spike Lee’s Da 5 Bloods. All while battling cancer. And not just that. Boseman had already become something of an acting legend and his role as the Black Panther only cemented his importance to Black people all over the world. He will be remembered for all of the work he did to bring Black stories to the big screen and for sticking to his beliefs. You can see how much he meant to people all over the world by the outpouring of grief on social media this weekend. 43 is far too young for anyone to leave us and Boseman’s passing will be felt for a long time to come.

I wanted to dedicate this week to him and picked one of his most recent films to review today. If I’m honest, I wish I’d picked a better one. I remember seeing the trailer for this film and thinking it looked stupid. That’s why I never watched it. It was already so obvious how it was going to go. It’s not great that, in a week in which I’m trying to honour an acting legend, I pick a film that was way beneath his talents. On the plus side, he does stand out way above everybody else but that’s not necessarily as good as it sounds. If I remember correctly, this was one of those films that used the “produced by the people who brought you Captain America: Civil War so you knew going in that it didn’t have a lot going for it.

What I will say is that this is a welcome return to a more classic type of thriller. It doesn’t rely on massive CGI stunts to amp it up. The kind that is built on tension building organically in a race against time. It feels slightly claustrophobic thanks to it’s limited location. Chadwick Boseman plays young detective Andre Davis as he attempts to catch a couple of cop killers. To do this, Davis creates a plan that shuts down the 21 bridges of Manhattan to close them off. He and his partner for the night must then track down the pair and bring justice to the NYPD.

The night starts off with a simple drugs theft gone wrong. When two petty criminals break in looking to steal 30kg of cocaine, they aren’t expecting to come across 300kg. They quickly find themselves surrounded by police and having to shoot their way out. On the run, they’re in a hurry to get their cash and get out of town. Davis, who has a reputation for gunning down cop-killers, is under pressure to find the pair and bring them to justice. But just what kind of justice are the fallen’s colleagues looking for? And just what is on the flash drives that one of the thieves has in his possession?

It will come as no surprise that there is a twist to this story because every single character acts super suspiciously. If you don’t work out who to trust within the first few minutes then there’s a chance that you’re too trusting. It’s not that this doesn’t have greatness within it. It’s just that this all feels too familiar. This is a story that we’ve seen thousands of times before and, no matter how well it is made, it feels a bit stale. The dialogue is also a little too cliched. At times it feels like a pulp detective novel. However, 21 Bridges‘ worst crime is not giving its lead enough to do. Boseman could be enigmatic in any role but he just coasts here. Not because he’s not up to the challenge but because he’s much better than it.

This isn’t exactly a terrible watch because it’s clever. It keeps things moving really quickly, has a wonderful array of supporting characters, and it brings some big talent to the fore. Director Brian Kirk does a pretty good of making the most of the pretty thin concept and ensures that the tension is always building. You won’t get bored watching it but you will feel as though it missed some good opportunities.

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