21 Bridges Review: Boseman is at his best in action-packed crime thriller
Being no stranger to fast-paced action and heroics, Chadwick Boseman plays a different kind of avenger as he re-teams with the Russo Brothers, as producers, for the hard-nosed crime thriller 21 Bridges.
The film follows Andre (Boseman), a NYPD detective whose reputation as a cop that kills cop killers makes him a notable member of the force. Losing his father at the age of 13, Andre seeks to avenge fallen officers in the name of justice but keep his emotions out of the equation. That mentality becomes a strain with his relationships with fellow officers after he attempts to stop two gunmen (Stefan James, Taylor Kitsch), on the run after they gun down officers and leave a bloodbath in their trail. With a short time span and the entire department breathing down his neck to kill the gunmen, Andre must act fast as he and another detective (Sienna Miller) figure out what’s caused all of this chaos.
With every scene he’s in, Boseman commands your attention with conviction and is perfectly casted to bring out Andre’s sense of justice. On the surface, Andre is your typical no nonsense, good-hearted cop. However, when other officers get involved and discuss his history as the killer of cop-killers, he becomes a much more complex character. He doesn’t boast this reputation and at times almost seems ashamed of it because of how it makes people perceive him. His reasoning for this unrelenting drive for justice is a little weak and not touched on much, but Boseman makes it so convincing that its incredibly hard to not find him a little admirable.
The only issue with Andre is that he’s a little too perfect and too defined by this sense of judgement. The film essentially attempts to walk on the line of right and wrong, but dips too deep into each side to create any kind of intriguing conflict. There’s never a moment where Andre’s actions deter from what you expect him to do and even the other officers who have lost friends aren’t treated with any sort of complexity. It’s almost like the film wants to show and talk about these things on the surface level, but make no attempt to actually explore anything. There’re some interesting messages and character arcs that come in a conversation between Andre and another officer (J.K. Simmons) towards the end of film, but they come a little too late. 21 Bridges really just offers interesting ideas for viewers to think about but puts no substance behind them to actually spark any thought. As a whole, the story is fine and has the kind of twists and turns that audiences will enjoy, even if they don’t always pack the punches they should.
The film is honestly more concerned with its action hero aspects and it’s almost as if the film really wants to be a superhero movie. Even though the film is incredibly grounded for the most part, it takes a turn in the final act that turned Andre from a normal and determined cop to James Bond/super-cop that’s kind of weird. For the most part, the film stays pretty believable and it’s one of the things that makes it such an engaging watch. However, once Andre learns about some info that one of the gunmen was hiding and the film heads into the film act, he essentially becomes a super-hero and the realism pretty much goes out the door.
Even for all of my complaints, though, 21 Bridges is still an action-packed blast and the supporting characters make their own kind of impact. Director Brian Kirk shows that the experience he’s had in directing shows like Game of Thrones and Luther was worth it as 21 Bridges delivers some great action sequences. From the sound design to the choreography, it’s all incredibly smooth and pulse-pounding. There’s a great chase sequence that’s very well shot and shows the physicality that Boseman and James bring to the film. The gun fights, for the most part, feel real and everything with the two gunmen on the run is just as intriguing as everything with Boseman. James and Kitsch’s respective character become more and more interesting as the film fleshes out their side of the story.
Once again, Boseman shows himself to be a strong lead and even for the film’s shortcomings, 21 Bridges manages to deliver the thrills and chills that audiences would want while also telling an interesting story filled with characters that are worth investing yourself into. It hooks viewers right from the get-go and keeps them engaged through all of the action.