2006 - PG-13 - 105 Mins.
|Director: Richard Donner
|Producer: D.J. Carson
|Written By: Richard Wenk
|Starring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse
|Review by: Chandler Pridgen
Being a huge fan of both Richard Donner and Bruce Willis, it was going to take a lot for me to be disappointed with '16 Blocks.' Richard Donner goes in a different direction with an overused formula to whip up a few pleasant surprises to keep you on your toes.
Just doing my job dammit!
Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) is set to be in court at 10 a.m. sharp to give his testimony that will implicate several police officers in a number of illegal operations. Aging borderline alcoholic Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is assigned to transport Bunker 16 blocks to the courthouse. Once they are on the road though, the corrupt officers waste no time trying murder Bunker while he is locked in the car, but Mosley comes to rescue in a truly unique viewpoint of a gunshot. For a brief moment, you see through Eddieï¿½s eyes as the gunman prepares to shoot, but suddenly crashes through the car window after Mosleyï¿½s fatal shot.
At this point, most anyone with Bruce Willis at their disposal would stick a pistol in each of his hands and spend the rest of the film having him blast his way out of trouble. However, director Richard Donner focuses heavily on character development in the midst of the current dilemma, and the manner in which he composes it is brilliant. The corrupt policemen arenï¿½t just random nameless killers deserving to be thoughtlessly gunned down at the emphatic applause of the audience. They are guys that Mosley has built relationships with over the years including his friend and partner of 20 years David Nugent (David Morse). Mosley does not want to murder his ï¿½friendsï¿½ and frequently passes on opportunities to do so, which makes his character much more lifelike and easy to relate to. Also, Bunker is not made out to be your same old cowardly, lowlife criminal that should be put away the rest of his life. Although equipped with the most ear drilling voice since Fran Drescher, Bunkerï¿½s resolve to change his ways slowly grows on you just as it does Mosley.
Throughout the film little details are revealed regarding Mosleyï¿½s past with Nugent and the others while Mosley and Bunker start to get closer. Every new detail adds more emotional weight to the situation while coinciding with the action taking place. For example, after the first shootout Nugent and his pals meet Mosley at a bar to try and woo Bunker away, and you discover that Nugent was Mosleyï¿½s past partner and that he is one of the dirty cops now. This new emotional facet makes Mosleyï¿½s response to this all the more involving. By the time the climax is reached, the action and the past details have built up to their maximum capacity and collided into a suspenseful atmosphere so thick you can almost taste it.
Given that Bruce Willis has had more than enough practice in the worn down cop role, his performance is surprisingly lacking. For the most part Willis is reduced to stressed out stares and low muttered one liners while the majority of the script is given to Mos Def. Donnerï¿½s confidence in the former rapperï¿½s acting talents to carry such a crucial role pays off immensely. Def has proven himself to be a very capable actor now with the ability to capture an audience in a primary role. He somehow makes you care about his character despite his constant rambling in his unbearably nasal voice. David Morse is also given a shot in a front and center role, but his character is plagued by the typical bad guy clichï¿½s, which makes his performance, although good, as a whole forgettable.
'16 Blocks' may not be ground breaking, but it is incredibly well put together, which is a lot more than any other film released this year can say. It is one of those films that has nothing to really WOW you, but has no real weaknesses either to make a consistently solid cinematic experience.