21 bridges
Derrick Dunn

Derrick Dunn

21 Bridges succeeds a gritty police drama

Chadwick Boseman takes a break from the superhero genre to fight corruption in director Brian Kirk’s police thriller, 21 Bridges from STXfilms. As a child, Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) attended the funeral of his father, a policeman who was murdered in the line of duty. Following in his father’s footsteps, Andre Davis decided to become a cop. Andre has spent his law enforcement career hunting down and disposing of “cop killers.”

Michael Trujillo (Stephan James) and Ray Jackson (Taylor Kitsch) are two war veterans who decide to rob a winery that servers as a front for a cocaine hub. In the melee, cops are killed, forcing Michael and Ray to go on the run. Captain Matt McKenna (J.K. Simmons) decides to put Andre on the case with assistance from detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller). Determining the best way to catch the criminals is to lock down Manhattan until the next morning, Andre comes to realize that there may be a more massive conspiracy afoot.

For the sake of argument there’s the notion Chadwick Boseman’s claim to fame is Marvel films and biopics and that he’s a two trick pony actor. From the moment the trailer for 21 Bridges was released, I was anxious to see Boseman take on a different role. 

Boseman is a naturally talented actor, and he slides right into the role of Andre Davis. I liked seeing Andre using his brain to figure out solutions as oppose to his fists. While there are some moments where Andre draws his gun, the majority of the film he uses his wits. In the role of our primary villains, Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch, were both enjoyable. I’ve enjoyed both of their work in the past in previous films, and both men make great bad guys. As the brains of the operation, James plays off Kitsch’s trigger happy loose cannon. J.K. Simmons and Sienna Miller are also good at providing solid supporting work.

One of the first things you will notice about screenwriter Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s script for 21 Bridges is the pacing. As opposed to a straightforward action flick, the duo’s script recalls the gritty cop thriller films from the seventies. There are a few plot twists in the screenplay, but even the most novice filmgoer will be able to figure it out. I can think of a few different angles the script could have taken, and the results would have been just as effective.

In his feature directing debut, Brian Kirk does a commendable job with 21 Bridges. Known primarily for television work, the pacing required for the plot of 21 Bridges needed someone who can condense seven hours into a one hundred minute feature instead. The action sequences were also enjoyable, with my favorite being a foot chase between Chadwick Boseman and Stephan James’s character.

Outside of a predictable plot twist, I’m still giving 21 Bridges the recommendation of seeing in the theater or on the home market. Fans of Chadwick Boseman will enjoy seeing him in a different role. In contrast, cop drama fans will have something to talk about after exiting the theater.

Final Grade C+

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