As I have said in my social media, there are times when a big film release will dominate cinema intake for a week, maybe more. In those moments, it is more important than ever to look at other same-day releases and give them a chance occasionally. This is what I decided to go with 21 Bridges. But if you think that’s the only reason, I would want to give 21 Bridges its day in court, think again. The Russo Brothers were producers on this film, marking it their first step forward from Avengers: Endgame so it was a question of if there was a clear career path away from Marvel films. The description that fits 21 Bridges perfectly is it is a massively cliched action/cop film, but the clichés are easily forgivable because of how simple it is.
An interesting story, the film was originally called 17 Bridges, the bridges referring to the ones connecting Manhattan to the rest of New York, but during filming the crew realized there was actually 21, so not off to a good start there. However, someone who is off to a good start in the film is Chadwick Boseman as good cop Andre Davis. I’ve always admired Chadwick Boseman, he started something really good in 42, then hit the big time with Black Panther. Now he’s ditched Wakanda for the mean streets of Manhattan with the weight of the film on his shoulders. I felt his character was pretty basic, every avenue of the good cop has been explored vigorously over the years, but he plays simple well and is the main attraction of the film.
I was impressed by how the narrative of 21 Bridges starts as a simple premise that gradually gives you the incentive that something bigger is happening, but it does go way out of its depth so that 21 Bridges becomes too big for its boots. It was a very smart decision to have certain reoccurring actions take place that suggests a larger picture being painted. The power of suggestion in 21 Bridges is something I haven’t seen done so cleanly in the past few films I’ve reviewed.
There are a plethora of cop chases that are a good spectacle. I felt that the pacing matched with the intensity, it was pieced together well so that the audience didn’t feel like they weren’t missing anything, all in all, a very pleasant watch. I heard some people say it gave the same high-octane action and tension of Die Hard. While I wouldn’t go that far, it was still genuinely impressive.
Sometimes 21 Bridges can carry with it a sense of disconnect and that’s because while Andre is clearly explored with clarity, the same can’t be said with the other characters. For instance, you have these two criminals Ray and Michael (Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James) who are in a situation that should have been quick and easy but gets out of hand just as quick. These are very substantial roles, but something is missing from them that creates this disconnect. We get the backstory of the two but that’s just exposition. When the audience can’t picture a character’s past, the puzzle about them remains unsolved. This is a film, words need to be supported by images. I think 21 Bridges would have benefited much better if the characters of Ray and Michael were just as strong as the cops, maybe more.
I grew up on police action/drama in the form of TV series like Life on Mars and Ashes to Ashes, and when I think about the premise of 21 Bridges, I think that it is yet another example of a piece of entertainment in the wrong medium. A simple, larger than life premise like 21 Bridges would be just as entertaining if it were a mini-series. The episodic format could have scratched beneath the surface of the character which is what I felt the film was doing most of the time anyway. But more important than that, the tiresome clichés would have been accepted more.
When I say 21 Bridges is loaded with clichés, it is LOADED with clichés. I think the most troublesome of all is the generic cop dialogue. It’s the kind of dialogue that is suggesting in its tone and delivery that something major is going down in a scene when of course, there isn’t much happening at all. It may not bother some people because its what they’ve been expecting anyway in an action/cop film, anything else would be too uncanny which I can respect, but you can’t deny that it’s so obvious.
21 Bridges, in the end, is the kind of film you watch once, and never bother to see it again. This isn’t because it’s necessarily bad, it the film where one watch is enough to take in everything. The action was nice, Chadwick Boseman pulls everything out of the bad to ensure stability, I just think this is the kind of drama where there is room to explore, but for whatever reason, the film blocks this. Wasted potential? Maybe, but for what it was, that seems too uncertain to decide.
Final Result: 4/10 – Below Average
Have you seen 21 Bridges? What did you think? Please let me know your thoughts and opinions in the comments below.
Next Time: The Irishman