Noamie Harris plays Alicia West, an Afghanistan war vet and rookie cop in her New Orleans precinct, who finds herself in limbo: she’s shunned by the black community who are victims of police brutality, and looked down upon by her peers. Things take a turn for the worse when her bodycam records the murder of an unarmed black youth by a group of corrupt narcs. This sets off a race against time to get the incriminating footage back to the station, as she is pursued by both the corrupt officers trying to cover their tracks and the local drug lords who believe she committed the murder.
Black And Blue works best when addressing the institutionalised racism at the heart of American society and the effects of the toxicity within – and emanating from – law enforcement. The first half of the film even pleasantly echoes Antoine Fuqua’s Training Day. The issue is that as the runtime progresses, the film gradually becomes sloppier, stumbling into heavy-handed territory; some of its narrative shortcuts feel at odds with the superior first half, in which director Deon Taylor effectively blends palpable tension with timely societal commentary.
Throughout, a commanding Naomie Harris keeps the film afloat, giving some of the more generic moments some punch. More could have been done regarding her character’s plight of being caught in a crossfire every which way she turns: male vs female, her community vs her profession, much-needed change vs ingrained corruption. But even Harris’ best efforts can’t quite sell some of the corny dialogue in the third act (“Be the change!”), the slow-mos that accompany the cartoonish villains, and the far-too-hokey resolutions that make the climax unintentionally funny rather than impactful. The less said about that raucously stupid end-credits snippet and the eye-rolling needle-drop that follows, the better. It crosses the finish line as a formulaic-yet-serviceable cop thriller that doesn’t rise to its leading star’s level during the runtime and sadly seems to forget its righteous anger along the way.
Black And Blue | Directed by Deon Taylor (US, 2019), with Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Nafessa Williams. Starts Nov 14.
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