21 Bridges Review: A Brainless Plot Sinks Violent Cop Thriller


21 Bridges is an ultra-violent cop actioner with an illogical, brainless plot. Star Chadwick Boseman had been on a roll the past three years as Marvel hero, Black Panther, and civil rights icon, Thurgood Marshall. His talent brings a drop of dramatic heft to 21 Bridges, but not enough to elevate the film. A solid supporting cast is also wasted in this hail of bullets. The body count is high and bloody, but the story is laughably predictable.

We first meet Andre Davis (Christian Isaiah) as a boy at the funeral for his policeman father; who was killed in the line of duty. Years later, Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a fierce New York City detective famous for killing bad guys. He’s being investigated by Internal Affairs for his record number of shootings. Davis makes no apologies. He protects the badge and public without remorse.

Two low level street thugs (Taylor Kitsch, Stephan James) rob a cocaine cache hidden in a restaurant. They are stunned to find hundreds of kilos when they only expected thirty. A shootout ensues when four cops show up. They gun down the cops and their backup. Detective Davis is assigned the task of hunting down the cop killers. He convinces the mayor’s office to close all the bridges and tunnels that lead into Manhattan. Trapped and on the run, the killers must find a way to dispose of the drugs. Davis, and a narcotics officer (Sienna Miller), are hot on their trail. But as they close in, Davis becomes suspicious of the officers who initially responded to the crime scene.

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21 Bridges takes place over the course of one bullet-ridden night. Director Brian King (Game of Thrones, Luther) sets a fast pace with continuous action scenes throughout. The problem is that no amount of gunfire or dead bodies can make up for the sizable holes in the plot. The circumstances surrounding the robbery would have raised red flags immediately. The police desire to find and kill criminals who murdered their own is completely understandable. What doesn’t make sense, especially from Davis and the FBI, is why all of those cops were at a drug den in the first place. The mystery behind the drugs is blatantly obvious. The premise of the film falls apart in the first act.

A lot of cops and civilians are mercilessly gunned down in 21 Bridges. Their deaths are meant to invoke visceral anger from the audience. It’s a cheap gimmick that I found distasteful. The baddies have high powered, armor piercing weapons that shred Kevlar like Swiss cheese. They plow through a minor NYPD army, but can’t get past the crackerjack 9MM Glock 17 of Detective Davis. We’ve seen the super cop saves the day in countless movies. 21 Bridges fizzles out with the same absurd contrivance.

Taylor Kitsch, Sienna Miller, and J.K. Simmons play key supporting roles. Their characters are one dimensional and borderline caricatures. Sienna Miller, a British actress who usually does good work, flubs her turn as the grizzled narc. Her New York accent sounds like Brooklyn in a can. J.K. Simmons yells and snarls as the police captain whose men were killed. His role is transparent from the second he steps on screen. Kitsch is the only actor that successfully plays the bad-ass. He says very little, but pulls off the cold-blooded murders.

21 Bridges works if you wear narrative blinders. The gruesome action scenes have tension, but did not appeal to me in the overall context of the film. Chadwick Boseman is also rail thin here. He looks severely underweight to play an NYPD detective. That may be a quibble, but it adds up. There are just too many flaws. 21 Bridges is a production of MWM Studios and Huayi Brothers with distribution by STX Films.

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Julian Roman at Movieweb