A genre that hasn’t really provided any cutting-edge developments since the early 1980s, the New York cop film can often seem stale and repetitive. 21 Bridges falls into this generalisation, but does so with remarkable gusto and is truly enjoyable as it leads its audience to the inevitable – but thoroughly satisfying – conclusion. The story follows a strait-laced detective who hunts down a pair of cop killers through the locked-down Manhattan as a cocaine robbery gone wrong unravels itself as much deeper rooted than it would first appear.
The standout element is the cinematography. Within ten minutes we are treated to a beautiful birds-eye shot of police officers in formation saluting a fallen colleague. This inventive use of camera-work thankfully follows us through the entire film. Establishing shots reminiscent of neon-lit and smoky 1980s films remind us of the grim underbelly of New York, while excellent tracking shots follow characters through kitchens and storage rooms in chase scenes that any Bond film would be proud of.
Chadwick Boseman is believable as the detective with something to prove and the supporting cast is excellent too, namely Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons, who breathe life to characters that can often be two dimensional in films of the same ilk. A solid script ensures that the plot is excellently paced and comes to its conclusion in due course. However, minor contrivances let the film down at times and viewers will be tired of hearing the sentence ‘What the fuck is going on?!’ long before the end credits roll, as various characters elude to the notion that there is more than meets the eye, as though a modern audience needs reminding of this.
The exciting and enthralling 99 minutes are well worth your time, as this film has more at the heart of it than merely another action film. Great production values result in a satisfying throwback that can sit comfortably alongside Serpico and 16 Blocks on the shelf. So, forget the titular bridges – the film certainly does – and soak up the latest instalment of the New York cop film.
21 Bridges | Directed by Brian Kirk (US, 2019) with Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller, J.K. Simmons. Starts Feb 6.
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