By Marc S. Sanders
What a huge loss it is to no longer have Chadwick Boseman after being taken so early in life by cancer. His heroic role in Black Panther is what is arguably celebrated most. However, even a small, standard cop film like 21 Bridges is evidence of his magnetism on screen.
In this movie, Boseman portrays Andre Davis, a New York police detective who is under investigation by Internal Affairs for an abundance of shooting incidents. Yet he is still on the beat. When he is summoned to the aftermath of a violent crime scene after midnight in Manhattan, it is up to Andre and his new partner Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) to track down two killers who ran off with a large supply in cocaine while taking out seven police officers in the getaway. The best way to catch the bad guys is to shut down the twenty outlets off of Manhattan Island. That means all bridges, tunnels and ferries are closed off until sunrise. Now it becomes a closed off maze to locate and apprehend the men. One problem for Andre and Frankie is that the entire police force is looking to taking out the suspects as punishment for killing their comrades. Andre is actually not the shoot first cop he’s unfairly being characterized as, though. Sounds simple and familiar, yes. However, Andre slowly realizes that there may be a complicated conspiracy involved.
Directed by Brian Kirk, 21 Bridges won’t rank up there with Andrew Davis’ The Fugitive or even the best of the Dirty Harry installments, but the film moves at a brisk pace and the action is spectacular, and at times unexpected. The early heist of the drugs from an underground wine cellar is fast and shocking when a shootout erupts that goes for a thankfully suspenseful long time. Kirk doesn’t make it easy for the bad guys (Steven James, Taylor Kitsch) to make their escape. When they do, the desperation is engaging.
While this picture didn’t generate much box office success, there’s no question that Boseman would have been a go to leading man in the same vein as Keanu Reeves or Tom Holland has become. My theory: it should not have been released against blockbuster power hitters. Had it come out in January or February, this would have been a sleeper hit for sure. Boseman looks great as the hero and righteous cop, competing with the standard police veterans (JK Simmons) who remind the hero he doesn’t know what he’s talking about, etc. We, the viewers, know better though. Boseman looks very cool and athletic in his dark blue overcoat and drawn pistol, running through the streets of Chinatown or within apartment staircases and hallways as he maintains the chase. Chadwick Boseman is just a solid leading man. No question about it.
The script by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan is full of surprises that fit in the sense of the picture. Nothing comes out of left field, but I wasn’t looking for surprises either. So, when a new development presented itself, I appreciated it. It kept the movie alive.
So again, Chadwick Boseman is huge loss within the Hollywood ranks. I read that a sequel was considered. I would have liked to see that with Boseman reprising his role because it’s a good part for him.
If you have grown tired of watching the Marvel and Star Wars films and series for the 50th time and you’re looking for something new, seek out 21 Bridges. It’s a first-rate solid crime thriller.