21 Bridges was exactly my kind of Cinema, the trailer said, which was why the reviews wouldn’t’ve mattered in the first place, for me that is. Manhunts and extended chases overnight seems to be quite the rage these days, at least from where I am sitting, and globally too because this film hits the screens close on the heels of the South Indian “airtight” actioner, Kaithi and yes, the visceral Asuran – in spirit. And like Kaithi, 21 Bridges too has it’s share of tributes and inspirations or just loads of plain old deja vu, if nothing else. The film reminded me most of the Bruce Willis vehicle from a decade back, 16 Blocks, in fact I’d go so far as to say that it’s almost a rework of the script with some contemporary cinematic sensibilites thrown in.
21 Bridges should have been actually called 21 bridges, three rivers and four tunnels, because that’s the whole list of what the NYPD cops shutdown to box in the bad guys in Manhattan, and hey no spoilers here because that’s already part of the trailer. Apart from other things, 21 Bridges was also a quick lesson in geography for me and though it is indeed laden with tropes and cliches we have seen too often in movies from the genre, it does make more than a good job of holding your attention, considering. I could count at least three MacGuffins that took the tale forward at various juntcures and that’s without counting the brdges. That could indeed be a first. Untouchables had it’s bound ledger, 21 Bridges makes do with MS Excel and thumbdrives. The film ticks all the boxes right when it comes to representation, in keeping with the times and also finds space for that perennial American character, the troubled soldier, in the story. The title and the premise does give you an impression that there’s something on a Roland Emmerich scale in the wings, I mean you’re talking about shutting of Manhattan from rest of NY but the film opts for a minimalistic approach and acutally decides to focus on emotions and short but intense action sequences, which works quite well for it’s cause too, that’s to entertian the audience, ultimately. You get to see a splendidly shot on foot chase and though you do end up guessing most of the twists ahead, Brian Kirk the director does set up some gripping scenes and manages to keep the proceedings taut through out the running time.
Holding the film together despite whatever shortcomings it has in the writing department in terms of novelty is an ethereal Chadwick Boseman who looks and talks as if he walked off a screen where Black Panther was playing, right into this film. He redefines the term menacing in the scene where he knocks down one cop and stops his partner in his steps with a glare and a scowl. If in Black Panther it was Michael B.Jordan who stole the show with his performance opposite Boseman, here it’s Stephen James who tries to repeat history. Tayor Kitsch is efficient in turn as a bad guy with a heart. For a supposedly trigger happy cop, Boseman actually is seen doing a lot of talking with the gun drawn, more than once. A thoroughly deglamorized Sienna Miller plays a narc who joins Boseman in the hunt for the cop killers. Throwing about orders in the middle is J.K.Simmons. Those are the most familar faces but with the amount of streaming content that you have at your disposal these days, you can’t but help feeling that you have seen every other actor on the screen in one show or the other. All things said, this one might evoke nothing more than a duh – to channel my inner Billie Eilish – from the millenials but if you’re a so-called 90’s kid, this film just might work for you. And don’t me wrong when I tell you that the best and most talked about scene from the film is that of a drone shot of a synchronised salute by a bunch of cops, it’s just a technical observation and is seen in the trailer too. Duh ?