I picked up 16 Blocks for a couple of quid somewhere as I wanted a Hollywood movie I hadnít seen before, something to keep me entertained with explosions and big names. Iíd listened to a few friends who told me they didnít like this movie, complaining about Mos Def Ďs unbearable performance, and decided to judge for myself. The thing is, I wanted a non-formulaic formulaic action flick. Was it possible to do this kind of movie and still surprise your audience, I wondered. I knew that the grizzled veteran cop bit had been done to death by Bruce Willis. I mean, heís pretty much made that jacket his own with films like The Last Boy Scout, Sin City and the Die Hard franchise.
So I gave 16 Blocks a try. The director, Richard Donner, had steadily built up a career with technical accomplishments such as Superman and the Lethal Weapon films; the latter proving he was not unfamiliar with the genre in hand. Willisís alcoholic cop Jack Mosely sits holed up on a bus, surrounded by a SWAT team. He records a message on a Dictaphone explaining what he has done, and we found out in real-time exactly how he got to this point. After finishing at a crime scene, Mosely is looking to call it a day when a young sergeant requests he take a defendant from the holding cells to testify in court. Itíll only take 118 minutes. Easier said than done in central New York traffic. Mos Def plays the prisoner Eddie, a petty criminal with dreams of opening a bakery, who believes people can change. Mosely is not so sure. He needs alcohol to stay afloat, and stops at a liquor store for a swig of Canadian Club. Its not even 9am. Eddie is not impressed.
An anxious Eddie waits in the car, handcuffed and pretty much helpless. He desperately wants to get to court and not keep the jurors waiting. A man knocks on the window with a gun and then appears to smash his head through the window. Outside, Mosely has shot him, dropping the bottle of whisky and sobering up real quick. A shootout ensues, and he and Eddie duck into a bar. Cops show up, led by Moselyís ex-partner Nugent played by David Morse, echoing his role in the remake of The Getaway with the portrayal of another softly spoken villain. Body language plays an integral part in this scene, as Mosley realises from Eddieís change in demeanour that something is going on. Mosley shoots a cop, and grabbing Eddie they head out, to begin the chase anew.
In the age of mobile phone and cctv, its not hard to track the fugitives. Dirty cops, revenge and redemption all play a part in the finale. Bruce Willis takes on a role he couldíve played in his sleep, yet gives the character humanity. Mosely is a frail drunk, the kind you wouldnít want driving a police car around Brooklyn, let alone pointing a gun at you. In a role originally intended for Ludacris, Mos Def plays Eddie as if the character meant a lot to him, and that his suggestions as to how Eddie should be were kept in. He sounds a little nasal from time to time, but itís authentic. Try this film, it might surprise you. In the hands of a different director, this could have been another Bulletproof. Iím glad it wasnít.