16 Blocks (12A)

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor Bruce Willis gives a well-judged performance as an alcoholic detective worn down by the city he is supposed to be protecting, but he isn’t helped by a script that is just as flabby and tired as his character.

TREVOR HEATON, EDP Whats On Editor

You can tell the years are catching up with yesterday's action stars when suddenly they're cast in the role of the jaded old timer who has to come to terms with the fact they have been married to the job for far too long while trying to tame the grim excesses of modern policing.

This is the situation that Bruce Willis finds himself in 16 Blocks. While Bruce gives a well-judged performance as an alcoholic detective worn down by the city he is supposed to be protecting, he isn't helped by a script that is just as flabby and tired as his character.

He has become the joke of the department - given such responsible tasks as babysitting dead bodies at a murder scene until the uniformed cops turn up to secure the crime scene and transporting prisoners across town to court dates.


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Nursing a bottle and a hangover, Willis' Detective Jack Mosley is a sorry excuse for a police officer. Throughout the movie he exudes an air of exhaustion which never leaves him.

Unfortunately, director Richard Donner seems to think that he is recreating a buddy movie like Lethal Weapon and saddles Willis with a sort of partner in form of Mos Def, who plays Eddie Bunker a fast-talking petty thief on his way to yet another trial date.

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Willis is transporting him across town when a pair of hitmen try to kill Bunker to prevent him testifying before the grand jury. Willis and Def escape on foot but very quickly it becomes clear to Willis that his fellow cops are the bad guys.

At this point the film degenerates into a by-the-numbers police corruption movie that is so full of holes that you could drive a bus through them - and a little later that's exactly what Willis does in an attempt to escape his fellow officers.

It seems that Eddie Bunker saw something he shouldn't and is about to testify to the New York Grand Jury about police corruption - corruption that will bring down six senior officers and they are not about to let that happen.

As a result, these six officers spend the next hour chasing Willis and Def, shooting up Chinatown and sealing off whole districts of the city. How even senior detectives can do this without their superiors asking questions is not explained and I suppose we shouldn't ask.

All this wouldn't be so bad if Mos Def's motor-mouthed Eddie Bunker wasn't saddled with such an annoying voice and overwhelming personality. If Willis goes for the taciturn Eastwood style then that's only to allow Def to talk his way throughout the film. He barely pauses for breath for 90 minutes. Sadly, in this case, opposites don't attract and there's no real chemistry between Mosley and Bunker. Willis seems to find this whiny, fast-talking hood as annoying as we do.

Richard Donner on a good day can be a fantastic director, but he needs the material to work with. On 16 Blocks the script seems to be a guide book for a chase movie but hints at hidden depths without ever delivering the goods.

Willis is well supported by David Morse, of Green Mile fame, as his former partner Frank Nugent. But while there are outstanding elements the film never coalesces into a satisfying whole. You can see everyone trying but the script is there to work with and the characterisation of Eddie Bunker is such a huge mistake, that the film is lost from the moment he comes on screen.

Disappointing.

 

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