Chadwick Boseman in 21 Bridges (Photo: STX)
★★ (out of four)
DIRECTED BY Brian Kirk
STARS Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller
I daresay that a movie about the daily routines of Jeff Bridges’ extended family would be more interesting than what we actually get in 21 Bridges, a generic cop thriller with plot twists so obvious that they could be spotted as far back as the Cretaceous Period.
Chadwick Boseman, whose filmography already includes excellent turns as Jackie Robinson, James Brown, Thurgood Marshall and T’Challa, here gets saddled with perhaps his most simplistic role yet: the cop who cares. Boseman brings all the professionalism he can muster to the part of Andre Davis, a police officer who, as the films opens, is being dragged before Internal Affairs for the umpteenth time since he’s known for being trigger-happy out in the field.
This intro is meant to set up Davis as a macho detective in the Dirty Harry vein, but the filmmakers quickly remember that it’s the 2010s, not the 1970s, and so Davis immediately morphs into a sensitive policeman who repeatedly holsters his weapon in order to patiently listen to the perps as they explain the plot to him. It’s a ridiculous reversal of character that occurs at the same speed as the drivers heading toward the finish line in Ford v Ferrari.
The action gets underway as two small-time crooks, rational Michael (Stephan James) and rabid Ray (Taylor Kitsch), attempt to rob a stash of 30 kilos of cocaine, only to be confronted with 300 kilos of the powder. Several corrupt cops show up on the scene, and the pair manage to kill all of them (along with some presumably innocent officers as well). Now branded as cop killers, the crooks are being pursued not only by other corrupt cops who want to silence them but also by the dedicated Davis. As is often the case these days (see the recent Black and Blue, reviewed here), there’s also incriminating evidence that’s stored on some McGuffin-approved device — in this case, a USB flash drive.
Some might understandably object to a movie about overly aggressive cops being released at a time when both the guilty and the innocent are routinely killed by such officers at an alarming rate, but 21 Bridges is ultimately too rote to inspire such fury. J.K. Simmons shows up as a barking police chief, while Sienna Miller appears as an overworked cop who’s partnered with Davis. Their characters are as transparent as everyone else in this stylish yet unimaginative yarn.
As a movie, 21 Bridges is a bridge to nowhere — or at least nowhere interesting.