Naomie Harris in Black and Blue (Photo: Screen Gems)

BLACK AND BLUE
*** (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Deon Taylor
STARS Naomie Harris, Tyrese

Those who believe in second chances will be heartened by the presence of Black and Blue in theaters. This past May saw the release of director Deon Taylor’s awful home-invasion yarn The Intruder, a movie likely to break the sound barrier as it zooms toward a spot on my year-end 10 Worst list (see review here). Taylor now returns with Black and Blue, and while the film is almost as formulaic as The Intruder, it pulls off its conventional material in far more interesting ways.

Aside from her Oscar-nominated supporting turn in Moonlight, Naomie Harris is too often unsung, but she again proves her dramatic worth with a forceful performance in Black and Blue. She stars as Alicia West, a rookie police officer who witnesses a trio of corrupt cops slaying a pair of unarmed drug dealers. Catching the execution on her body cam, she seeks to get the incriminating evidence back to police HQ, a task which proves to be all but impossible. The head crooked cop (Frank Grillo) states that she’s the one who killed the kids, which not only leads to the police searching for her but also draws the attention of the area’s top drug dealer (Luke Cage’s Mike Colter). With nowhere else to turn, she enlists the reluctant aid of Milo (Tyrese Gibson, surprisingly effective), a former childhood acquaintance now working at a local convenience store.

The real-life issue of white cops gunning down unarmed blacks only comes into tangential play here, as the script by Peter A. Dowling is more interested in providing genre thrills than digging deep down into a national scandal. Nevertheless, some points are scored as Harris’ upright character never wavers in her idealism or her belief that societal change is needed ASAP.

Still, the focus is on the mounting tension as Alicia must navigate a hostile landscape with only one person willing to help her. If it isn’t a corrupt cop waiting for her around the next corner, it’s a vengeful criminal, and Taylor and Dowling smartly massage their material with enough finesse that the familiarity becomes part of the fun.

Clearly, Black and Blue isn’t in the same league as John Carpenter’s Assault on Precinct 13 or Walter Hill’s The Warriors, but those who enjoy action flicks set in urban war zones might find it an arresting experience.

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