21 Bridges movie poster

21 Bridges

In theaters November 22, 2019


, ,

99 minutes

Directed by:

Starring: , , , ,

There’s something both familiar and different about 21 Bridges that makes it an enjoyable action thriller relying on smarts and technology instead of loud extended shots of gunplay and death.

Detective Ander Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is following in the footsteps of his father, a slain NYC police officer. He regards his job and his badge with a reverence not often seen in movies about maverick police officers. Davis does have a trigger finger, only shooting the bad guys with just cause. It’s his honor code embedded deep within his DNA, he says, and he wields it like a shield. When seven cops are murdered in a robbery-turned-coke-deal gone south, he’s tapped by Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) and paired with scrappy narcotics detective, Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) to find the bad guys and save the taxpayers of New York a lot of money.

The Bad Guys are Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James), who have stumbled upon a score bigger than they anticipated and more substantial than they can reasonably manage (if you can be reasonable with unsafe amounts of drugs). Instead of leaving Manhattan as soon as possible, they try to unload it, leading to one problem after another as the bodies pile up. They stumble upon a scheme much more significant than they are prepared to handle, but now branded as cop killers, using the information as leverage is out of the question. Detective Davis is up against the clock as he races to capture the Bad Guys without becoming entangled; it may be too late and too deep for him to solve.

So. Much. Action. But you know what – I like how for as many bullets were spent, nothing was heroic or over the top. We get a lot of cop movies that focus on bending the laws of physics to make a better visual story, but 21 Bridges doesn’t need that. We don’t need to see our good guy get shot a bunch of times and powering through the pain with sheer adrenaline. Our main character is a good man, and Davis would rather talk out a problem than shoot his way out of it. This detail is critical, because that’s not how his reputation precedes him, and it plays heavily into the third act of the film. Davis is expected to shoot first and ask questions later, which only makes him more hesitant to shoot at all.

Another prominent character in this story is the blanket of technology in Lower Manhatten. Known as the LMSI, the Lower Manhatten Security Initiative, it’s a 1.7-mile area of cameras on street corners, traffic lights, and alleys. It does what guessing and knocking on doors used to accomplish, bringing the names and faces of suspected criminals to screens all over the City. For 21 Bridges, it was operated out of a TAC unit dropping a little exposition and back story that would otherwise slow down the film. It was a clever use of technology in a movie that demands the raw energy of running and shooting to remain interesting.

Chadwick Boseman (Wakanda Forever!) is an excellent, level-headed police detective, who is both thoughtful and diligent. Too many of our police shoot-em-up movies have unpredictable hotheads who cause their problems, but Boseman’s Davis sounds like a guy you want to trust, even if he’s pointing a gun at you. His thoughtfulness leads to one of the most unpredictable turns in the film, one for which I was grateful to see, and it elevated to film another half star.

I found 21 Bridges very watchable, very exciting, and far from another lame romp through Crimetown.

21 Bridges is rated R for swears, people getting shot with high powered rifled, people bleeding through holes not meant for bleeding, head shots, hand shots, face shots, gut shots, bad guys misbehaving and cops behaving worse.

21 Bridges is streaming now on the following services:
Movie Reelist Contributor: MontiLee Stormer
MontiLee Stormer is a writer of horror, dark and urban fantasy. She’s also is a troublemaker, concocting acts of mayhem and despair for her own selfish pleasure. An avid movie watcher, she prefers horror but will see just about anything if you're buying. Poltergeist (1982) is her favorite movie and she actively hates The Shining (1980) due to its racism, misogyny, the butchering of the source material. She could host a TEDtalk on this single subject. Writing about herself in the third person is just a bonus.

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