21 Bridges is a predictable, yet entertaining race against the cop flick, with Chadwick Boseman playing a more than serviceable lead, full of unstoppable rage and a moral compass. Director Brian Kirk keeps things pretty close to the chest, but the end result is a decent way to kill two hours.
21 Bridges re-teams star Chadwick Boseman with producers Anthony & Joe Russo (Avengers: Endgame) for Brian Kirk‘s latest by-the-numbers cop drama that mostly relies on an ace leading performance and a story that occasionally attempts to dig a little deeper, but mostly settles for safe and familiar.
The film follows Detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) as he investigates a robbery gone horribly wrong. Andre is brought into the case based on his reputation as the guy that kills the cop killers, growing up without a father because of a criminal that decided to end his life.
Now, Andre looks after his mother, while doing his best to ride the line of morality as he sees fit to bring honor and meaning to the badge. He’s fine with shooting and killing someone that has it coming, but makes sure that they deserve it before pulling the trigger.
This introduces a balancing act to the story as the cops that call upon him (a grumpy and emotional J.K. Simmons) are in constant doubt of their decision to let Andre lead up the investigation.
This becomes more apparent as Andre discovers that the thieves (Stephan James & Taylor Kitsch) take off with a ton of uncut drugs that they clearly weren’t expecting. The deeper Andre digs, the less things start to add up, which makes him question just who he can truly trust in this crooked world of cops, robbers and shady individuals that fall in-between.
Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan‘s script is smarter than your average cop thriller, injecting some morality and realism into a film that could’ve been everything but. Yes, the last-act action is a little silly and too heightened for everything else that they have established early on, the film at the very least feels well-rounded and full of actual characters and not just stereotypical good guys and bad guys.
Their script is made better because of the collective cast that has assembled. Boseman is an unstoppable and incorruptible Detective that will tear the entire city down if it means finding the criminals before they escape his grasp. Sienna Miller offers up an acceptable partner performance that helps keep Boseman’s Andre in check.
J.K. Simmons mostly plays second-fiddle to the story as it unfolds, but he gives the needed emotion when the heavy stuff starts hitting. Lastly, Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch give two of the better and more focused performances of the film, playing the two thieves with equal amounts humanity and tragedy.
I thought it was refreshing how much time was spent on the interactions between these characters outside the typical robbery setup and getaway sequences. James and Kitsch give you a little bit more background on their characters and what led them down this path, which makes the progression of the film that much more interesting to follow.
Director Brian Kirk doesn’t exactly blow the lid off this production, with a drab sense of visuals that feel very muted and restrained. The action is cohesive enough to comprehend, but man this film lacks any sort of artistic eye.
One could compare this race against the cop/clock thriller to something like Run All Night, only that film has distinct direction and feel that gives it style and substance, whereas 21 Bridges feels very much like a studio product that required the director and his DP to simply point and shoot, leaving the integrity mostly out of the image.
Still, 21 Bridges trucks along, thanks to Chadwick Boseman‘s intimidating portrayal of the last great gunslinger in a city overran with crime, death and corruption.
21 Bridges is a film best enjoyed with little expectations. If you go into it expecting a decent action flick, then you might perhaps find enjoyment out of the end result. It doesn’t rewrite the book on cop dramas or stick in your memory because of its intricate twists or innovative shoot outs.
This isn’t that type of movie and that’s perfectly fine. It works best when it sticks to familiar plot beats and instead focuses on enhancing them with its assortment of very talented cast members.
21 Bridges exists just fine as a counter marketing to the likes of the over-the-top action of John Wick. 21 Bridges is grounded, a little bit more realistic, yet still full of cliches and predictability.
Your milage definitely may vary on its effectiveness. I personally didn’t mind it and would probably catch it again when it hits TV and there’s nothing to watch late at night.