Produced by the Russo Brothers, 21 Bridges is Chadwick Boseman’s first outing away from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, swapping the tech of Wakanda for the gritty streets of New York in the latest cop thriller to hit the big screen.
When a botched robbery results in the death of a number of NYPD officers, Capt. McKenna (J.K. Simmons) unleashes the ruthlessly efficient detective Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) and no nonsense DEA agent Frankie Burns to track down cop killers, Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James). As part of the citywide manhunt the mayor shuts down the 21 bridges, four tunnels and three rivers of Manhattan, giving the pair until sunrise to bring the criminals to justice. With the clock ticking and the pressure intensifying, Davis soon finds himself on the hunt for the truth as lines becomes blurred in a relentless pursuit.
Yes 21 Bridges is an utterly predictable, old school style cop thriller that features a twist you’ll see coming a mile off, yet the film makes for an entertaining watch that surprisingly kept me gripped throughout! Forgetting the contrived plot points and often clichèd script, it’s a pretty fun and well paced film that features an intriguing central cat and mouse/race against time concept, it’s just a shame that writers Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan didn’t take more of a risk with the plot. Threads such as Davis’ mother suffering with dementia or the main development of shutting down of the city aren’t unfortunately developed or explored. The film’s main themes of police brutality and the negative impacts of drugs are also quickly glanced over, with no real commentary given on such a key topic.
Boseman proves a decent lead without the vibranium suit, bringing just enough charisma and brooding to the slightly one dimensional role. The actor’s experience in the MCU has clearly paid off in the action department, as he really nails each of his shoot outs and chases. Unfortunately he just isn’t afforded all that much character development or depth, as a redemption arc would have made for an interesting angle following his record of delivering his own brand of violent justice. However If Beale Street Could Talk star Stephan James emerges as the real MVP of the show; his emotional and conflicted performance as Michael really makes you root for him. J.K. Simmons was also on great form as the out for blood Captain, but was unfortunately criminally underused along with the miscast and almost unrecognisable Sienna Miller.
But where the film really shines is in the impressively unrelenting and often brutal action, with many intense and well staged set pieces and stunts featured, particularly in the opening shootout. Alex Belcher & Henry Jackman’s blaring score really does heighten the senses in particularly tense scenes, but at times it has a tendency to overpower. Cinematographer Paul Cameron brings a real gritty and atmospheric feel to city, coupled with a sleek aerial view of the bustling cityscape.
In a year packed full of sequels and franchises, 21 Bridges is a refreshing break to the norm, proving an enjoyable but predictable watch featuring a standout performance by rising star Stephan James.