NYPD detective Andre Davis is known for not being afraid to pull the trigger and because of this, is not friends with internal affairs, who see him as off the leash and quick to judgement; to Davis, he has brought justice and argues, “I never shot first.” At one point in the film, he describes his job as “having to look the devil in the eye.” When eight police officers are killed in a robbery gone wrong, Davis, whose own father was killed in the line of duty, is trusted with finding the pair of cop killers on the run, even if that means shutting down all of Manhattan. However, as the night grows dim, details start not adding up and the embattled detective must decide for himself what the truth is.
21 Bridges is a film that can never decide where it wants to lend the majority of its focus; for the first two acts, the screen time is nearly split even between Detective Andre Davis moving from one crime scene to the next, while the other half is spent following the killers on the run, trying to dig themselves out of the hole they dug. However, neither storyline is ever compelling enough for you to care. There are hints of complexity in these characters whenever their backstories are brought up some way or another, but the film fails to develop these characters in any meaningful way – instead trying its best to subtly build up to the twist in the third act, an ultimately obvious twist which once again, hints at a complex message, but is too hurried to say anything. The film, as a result, is forgettable; one of the more interesting aspects to me, the idea of entirely shutting down Manhattan, part of the “city that never sleeps,” barely plays into the film. It’s titled 21 Bridges, and yet the only mention of the bridges is in a single piece of dialogue, why bother?
Looking to establish himself as more than just the Black Panther, Chadwick Boseman is solid and does the best with the material he is given, but there is only so much you can do with a static character who lacks emotion; the kid who played young Andre in the beginning of the film is allowed more emotional range (good job Christian Isaiah, make these appearances count). An actor I was impressed by, Stephan James, has the character with the most depth, as he makes you think he’s just another bad guy in the beginning of the film, but quickly gains your sympathy; Stephan James is a young talent I’d like to see more of, he’s played Jesse Owens for crying out loud! Also, I feel obliged to mention J.K. Simmons is in the film, doing J.K. Simmons stuff as a pissed off police captain.
Up to this point, I feel I have been harsher to the film than it deserves. The shootouts are intense, there is plenty of action, the dialogue is sometimes impressive and makes you think, and the cinematography is well done. Honestly, I was looking for another Den of Thieves, and was a bit let down. 6.5/10