21 Bridges

 

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A routine cop thriller is given some muscle thanks to smart casting choices. Just don’t go for the bridges. 

 

21 Bridges

Trigger happy: Stephan James holds Sienna Miller hostage

 

Actually, that’s 21 bridges, four tunnels and three rivers – not that it matters, of course. These are the thoroughfares that lead in and out of Manhattan and on this improbable occasion are closed so as to prevent the escape of two cop killers. What’s odd is that we don’t see a single roadblock, because that is not what Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay is really about. It’s a marketing hook and one that rather lets the side down. Manhattan Lockdown might have proved a more dramatic title, if one were to go this route, but Brian Kirk’s gripping if routine cop thriller is really about police corruption. A drug heist gone wrong is merely shoehorned into the action to keep the pot boiling.

 

The film’s virtues lie with its casting choices and a handful of the performances are above par for this sort of thing. Having said that, there’s marginal character development, although near the end J.K. Simmons does reveal that his wife is a nurse who works nights. The only real backstory belongs to Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman), a NYPD detective whose vocation is dictated by his DNA. We open at the funeral of his father, who was killed in the line of duty, and then loop forward 19 years to see Davis being grilled by Internal Affairs. Davis has shot dead eight men in nine years and has earned himself the nickname of ‘Trigger,’ but he seems a soft touch when it comes to the shooting regimen of his colleagues. When seven cops are murdered during a break-in at a vintner’s, Davis is handed the case, alongside a narcotics detective and single mom played by Sienna Miller. And so Trigger and Narc set off into the mean streets of the Big Apple, largely filmed in Philadelphia.

 

While Chadwick Boseman, who also produces, is on heroic form (his co-producers are Joe and Anthony Russo, who directed him as Black Panther in three movies), the rest of the cast plays against type. Sienna Miller is grungy and ambivalent (although her accent slips a few times), while Taylor Kitsch jettisons his male model looks to play an unsightly, tattoo-emblazoned scumbag. The location work is also skilfully handled, blending Philly with New York to pictorial effect, all the more so as the film is set almost entirely at night. But while the bullet count is truly epic, the action scenes lack the visceral power that Michael Mann might have provided and after all the mayhem the film ends on a perplexing whimper.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Keith David, Alexander Siddig, Taylor Kitsch, J.K. Simmons, Louis Cancelmi, Victoria Cartagena, Adriane Lenox, Christian Isaiah, Jamie Neumann.

 

Dir Brian Kirk, Pro Anthony Russo, Joe Russo, Mike Larocca, Gigi Pritzker, Chadwick Boseman and Logan Coles, Screenplay Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan, Ph Paul Cameron, Pro Des Greg Berry, Ed Tim Murrell, Music Henry Jackman and Alex Belcher, Costumes David C. Robinson.

 

MWM Studios/H. Brothers/Gozie AGBO-STX International.

99 mins. USA. 2019. Rel: 22 November 2019. Cert. 15.