Director – Brian Kirk
Cast – Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, JK Simmons, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch
In what amounts to making a post-MeToo film from the perspective of an accused, 21 Bridges is a broad celebration of cops at a time when the discourse around police brutality in America is at an all-time high. It takes the ‘one bad apple’ defence, and delivers it with the subtlety of a headshot.
Directed by Game of Thrones veteran Brian Kirk, produced by Avengers: Endgame duo Joe and Anthony Russo, and featuring Black Panther star Chadwick Boseman, 21 Bridges is a mediocre film with some admittedly bold ideas.
Watch the 21 Bridges trailer here
When several policemen are killed during a botched robbery, suave NYPD detective Andre Davis (Boseman) is tasked with tracking down the cop-killers — played by Stephan James and (rather depressingly, considering he was once touted to be the next big Hollywood leading man) Taylor Kitsch — in a race against time, as tempers rise and the entire force calls for blood.
Despite borrowing liberally from the masculine films of Michael Mann — Kirk manages to tip his hat to both Collateral and Heat in a single scene — 21 Bridges is tonally, intellectually, and stylistically similar to the Liam Neeson brand of action films. The film’s cat-and-mouse chase over a single night premise is reminiscent of Run All Night, and Boseman’s big speech will remind you of the one Neeson delivered so memorably in Taken.
“We got twenty-one bridges in and out of Manhattan,” he says, with the confidence of a man convinced it’s going to become a meme. “Shut them down. Three rivers. Close them. Four tunnels. Block them. Stop every train and loop the subways. Then, we flood the island with blue.”
Andre knows that manhunts such as this are likely to fizzle out if the culprits aren’t nabbed within a few hours of the crime. With Manhattan under lockdown, he plans on cornering the killers and draining them out like rats.
This image released by STXfilms shows, from left, JK Simmons, Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller in a scene from 21 Bridges.
In his quest, he’s joined by a veteran cop played by JK Simmons, and a narcotics specialist played by Sienna Miller — both of whom make the most of their thinly written characters by drenching them with a dour weariness.
21 Bridges is the sort of movie that takes more pleasure in staging a stylish gunfight than properly developing its characters; and Kirk probably spent more time in lighting his shots than ironing out some of the script’s more clunky bits. For instance, was it necessary to make Andre the son of a cop who was killed in the line of duty? Did no one think it would be too on-the-nose to make Sienna Miller’s character a single mother; a piece of exposition that is delivered, by the way, when her child’s nanny calls her in the middle of a tense scene?
Divorced from its poor writing and iffy politics, however, 21 Bridges is a relatively well-made movie. It’s just not something that you’d want to make a trip to the theatre for. Perhaps like the Russos’ upcoming film Dhaka, which stars another Avenger (Chris Hemsworth), it would have fared better on a streaming service. Certainly, that is where it will eventually be discovered, and potentially even enjoyed.