21 Bridges: A Brisk, Pointless Ride
21 Bridges should be fun. Produced by MCU partners the Russo Brothers and directed by TV veteran Brian Kirk, the Chadwick Boseman vehicle has a simple enough concept that lends itself to tight action sequences and brisk pacing. Men kill cops. Cop shuts down the island of Manhattan to catch men. Just add water and a dozen chase scenes and you get a B+ action flick. It’s a shame, then, that 21 Bridges fills in the details with predictable and unoriginal twists, turns, heroes, and villains, dragging down what could’ve been a breakout Boseman role to a merely passable 100 minutes. “But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword in vain. For he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.” Romans 13:4 echoes out over a young Andre Davis at his father’s funeral, after the NYPD detective was killed by three men on the job – two of whom he took down with him. Fast forward a few decades, and Davis, now played by Boseman, is an NYPD detective himself. After clearing an internal affairs hearing for shooting nine suspects in ten years, Davis is tasked with investigating the death of eight NYPD officers from the 85th precinct at the site of a cocaine heist gone wrong. The 85th’s Captain, played by J.K. Simmons, expects one thing from Davis: vengeance at all cost. The once-and-future Avenger could make for an interesting case study of the toxic allure that revenge holds – especially in our criminal justice system – but the film doesn’t follow through. Unfortunately, lack of follow-through is the only consistent theme. Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James give compelling and urgent performances as desperate men on the run, but after painting bits and pieces of a layered background for these men, 21 Bridges leaves the portrait unfinished. Even its strongest set-pieces – including the opening heist and a tense showdown in a money launderer’s safe house – start strong but eventually peter out. Andre has the audacity to shut down an island of 1.6 million people for four hours; the film sadly doesn’t share that strength in its convictions.