Some policemen commit to the force to protect and serve. Andre Davis, who is played by Chadwick Boseman, has other ideas. The jaded NYPD detective creates a reputation for himself to shoot first and ask questions later after his father is murdered on the job. With a personal vendetta and killer instincts, there is little holding Davis back from restoring law and order.
“Justice is at the heart and essence of who he is. He’s a person who can be misunderstood,” Boseman said in an interview. “Throughout the film, there’s this idea that he must be doing something that is wrong or illegal. In fact, it’s because he is willing to get so close to things that are unjust.”
At first glance, “21 Bridges” appears to be an action-packed thriller bound to keep the audience on the edge of their seats. Only one of those statements is true, and it is not the latter.
“21 Bridges” was released on Nov. 22, and the film is not doing as well as anticipated. There’s no need to guess why. Even if one were to watch only 30 minutes of the movie, that much would be clear.
The plot of the film is driven by car chases and tantalizing one-liners; however, it lacks serious substance. Davis is known as the top detective in New York City, so it does not come as a shock when Captain McKenna, played by J.K. Simmons, appoints him as the head operator on the case of a two-man heist. Immediately, there is immense pressure placed on Davis to capture the criminals because eight cops were killed in the midst of the robbery. He jumps into action without hesitation and closes down all 21 bridges in the city of Manhattan.
But there is obviously more to the story than a linear game of cat and mouse.
It is clear who the good and bad guys are from the beginning. While the cast and storyline are promising, the movie is far too predictable. The director, Brian Kirk, attempted to hone in on important concepts such as Blue Lives Matter and police corruption. He certainly does that, but there is a question of how well these concepts were executed throughout the film.
Kirk told Essence, “There’s a big concept — the lock down of Manhattan on a manhunt. Also, it’s the humanity of the film. He [main character] ends up risking his life to stand alone and protect them in the interest of truth and justice. I think it’s a beautiful journey for an actor and a beautiful journey for an audience.”
There seems to be a consensus as to how much of a notable character Davis is. He kills cop killers with “just cause,” but this does not deter the audience from seeing the character is inherently good. He is complex yet unwilling to compromise on matters of what is just and fair. Even his record of shootings has “just cause” because he is never the first one to shoot, according to him. The issue of the film, however, is how bleak Davis can also be. He is introduced to the audience at a pivotal moment of his life, but this is not consistent throughout the movie. The storytelling would be more understanding and compelling if the audience were aware of why Davis thinks the way he does. The motivation to avenge his wronged father is apparent, but the audience is not privy to the challenges he seems to face with this particular case.
In “21 Bridges,” one character does stand out above the rest. Stephan James plays one of the robbers, Michael, who is depicted as a complicated person in a compromising position. The “If Beale Street Could Talk” star truly embodied what it looks like to fear and not trust the authorities. His character tackles modern day issues that are a reality for most minorities, and it is the most thought-provoking part of the film. The audience is able to confront conversations about police corruption and what it means for people of color.
Boseman told MTV that he was responsible for the casting of James. It was one of the best decisions going into this film, if I do say so myself.
“I definitely had conversations about every actor that was there,” he said. “I really pushed for Sienna Miller, who was also the director’s first choice, and Stephan James. For me, I knew just from watching his work previously. I was telling the producers, ‘This is the guy. This is the guy we need to cast.’ So I really pushed them to go in that direction, and I think they are very much satisfied with that choice.”
They should be. James’ performance was impeccable and in many ways, it was the focal point of the movie. The audience is allowed to see both sides of the story, but it becomes most prominent with James’ character. His character is the person who initiates the turning point of the story. Of course, it is a turning point that the audience saw coming from miles away.
Without giving away too much of the film, another unpleasant aspect was the lack of general context. There were certain points that could have been elaborated on to emphasize their importance, such as the criminal acts performed by the unsuspected perpetrators. Rather than showing why the criminals did the crime, the audience is told by one of the characters. A good film illustrates these ideas and an even better movie forces the audience to commiserate with the characters, good or bad.
Not once did that occur in the duration of this movie.
— 21Bridges (@21BridgesMovie) November 23, 2019
Overall, “21 Bridges” was decent. It carried out a stable structure of beginning, middle and end. There were amazing talents performing, but the story had potential to be a lot better than it was. With that being said, this review is not a means to an end. I would recommend this film to those who are interested in seeing Boseman in a different light, typical high-risk chases and want to experience the movie for themselves.