Publicity Stills of "16 Blocks"
(Courtesy from UIP)

Genre: Crime/Action/Thriller
Director: Richard Donner
Starring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse
RunTime: 1 hr 45 mins
Released By: UIP
Rating: PG

Official Website: www.16blocks.com

Release Date: 20 April 2006

Synopsis :

This mismatched buddy film follows a troubled and aging NYPD cop (Willis) who is assigned the ordinary task of escorting a fast-talking witness (Def) from the police station to the courthouse 16 blocks down at 100 Centre Street. However, there are forces at work to prevent the duo from making it there.

Movie Review:

The poster projected this film as a taut thriller. 1 witness, 118 minutes, 16 blocks. But what transpires is a pretty ordinary film lacking in grand suspense, having dragged and sagged in its middle portion. It's tough competition between this film, and the likes of similar genre movies like Inside Man, and the upcoming The Sentinel (which bears suspicious resemblance to being the big screen version of hit television series 24).

In his past three films that have hit the local theatres here, Bruce Willis has nailed down the weary cop role. From Hostage's Jeff Talley, to Sin City's John Hartigan, he continues with the role here as Jack Mosley, a cop (what else) leading a mundane life and stuck in mundane duties. I suspect if Willis doesn't start diversifying his roles a little bit more, his career might well be best remembered by the numerous cop roles he played, starting from John McClane in the Die Hard series. Sporting a mean bushy moustache, Mosley comes across as a man with a lot of baggage, a man who seemed to shirk responsibility and coasts through life without much ambition.

Unwillingly volunteered into a no-brainer mission, he's tasked with escorting a witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def), from the police station to the courthouse, situated 16 blocks away, and to get him there on time within 2 hours. But haven't we seen enough of Willis' other characters playing the surrogate guardian to his wards in the films that were mentioned earlier too?

Director Richard Donner, master of buddy films that feature the pairings of mismatched characters like his highly successful Lethal Weapon series, treads on familiar ground with yet another mismatched character pairing in 16 Blocks. Similar to Weapon's Martin Riggs and Roger Murtaugh, here we have Jack the restrained and the composed, versus Eddie's reckless and shooting off the mouth character. Besides the difference in race, they're on different sides of the law as well.

As mentioned, the middle portion of the film got bogged down by numerous dialogue, which unfortunately weren't witty or smart, but really much of an ordinary blah. While necessary to facilitate and move the story forward, the dialogue could've been done more tightly, but what we got was sporadic brilliance peppered every now and then. Having Mos Def speed talking throughout didn't help much, as most of the time he came across as mumbling.

But the action was pretty decent, with a satisfactory number of gunfights, although one of the main action sequences involving a bus did look somewhat similar to Speed. There were plenty of SWAT team extras too, with their cool gear and shields, but these highly trained men became amateurs in their roles when up against our hero. The villains in the movie, led by David Morse, were also disappointingly bad, although Morse's Frank Nugent did spot a flash of sinister resemblance to Denzel Washington's crooked cop in Training Day.

There are enough twists in the movie to cater to the crowd lusting after the surprise element, though some might label the juxtaposition of time to achieve this effect, narratively weak. At the end of the day, the main theme in the movie is about redemption and the realization of one's skeletons in the closet, and to set things right. Sadly the movie squandered its potential most of the way, only having to redeem itself a nary too late towards the end.

Movie Rating:

(16 Blocks is an exhausting ride from start to end that failed to capitalize on its premise's potential to truly make it a unique thriller)

Review by Stefan Shih

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