Movie review: '21 Bridges' is a predictable letdown

Fred Hawson

Posted at Nov 25 2019 12:33 PM

'Black Panther' star Chadwick Boseman in '21 Bridges'

Two petty crooks, Michael Trujillo (Stephan James) and Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) got more than they bargained for when what should have been a routine job to steal some cocaine from a restaurant ended with them killing eight police officers who just so happened to all be at the scene of their robbery. 

Investigators called on to handle the case were led by internal affairs officer Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman), who immediately called a lockdown of Manhattan Island by closing off all 21 bridges that led in and out of it. The superior of the dead cops, Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) assigned narc officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) to back Davis up. 

"21 Bridges" looked like it was going to be a great police thriller when I first saw the trailer. "Black Panther" Chadwick Boseman played Officer Andre Davis, a dead-serious police officer who was not averse to taking extreme measures to make sure the perpetrators do not get away. However, he did not have to sweat too much to figure out who the criminals were since they were positively identified by a single random witness from a single screenshot of a traffic video. I felt this was lazy and too contrived of a coincidence. 

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To be fair, the action sequences of this film (mostly shootouts and chases) were executed well and were entertaining. Boseman and James stood out among the actors in the cast in both dramatic and action scenes, while some were too hammy (especially Kitsch and Miller). However, there were too many obvious clues even from the initial cocaine robbery scene which already pretty much telegraphed how the narrative was going to go -- and it did go exactly as I predicted, twist and all. 

Actually, the whole conceit of the title, the total close-down of all 21 bridges to isolate an entire island. It was done as a preventive measure since it was in the wee hours in the morning, it did not affect business in Manhattan. It sounded so sensational, I was expecting a bigger group of criminals, not just two small-time crooks. However, it was not really involved in the plot, except to limit the time that Davis had to catch the killers (he had to wind things up by 5 a.m. when Manhattan wakes up). But hey, it worked to bring people in to watch and that is the whole point of a catchy title. I felt letdown when I realized that the thieves will not even be on any one of those bridges. 

The names of "visionary directors" Anthony and Joe Russo were so prominently in the trailers and poster, so I thought this was their next directorial work after "Avengers: End Game." However, as the end credits rolled, the director was actually Brian Kirk, a veteran TV director best known for directing some episodes of "Game of Thrones." Turned out that the Russo brothers were among the producers along with star Chadwick Boseman.

This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."