16 Blocks is not the taut suspense film it so desperately wants to be because it’s a buddy film at heart. This doesn’t make it bad per se (latin for “of the se”) it just drops it off at the “good” station instead of staying on the yacht towards “greatville”. Too bad, so sad, you can’t win them all (or if you’re the Knicks put the word “at” in front of all).
Your boy Bruce Willis plays an aging beat detective with a fairly severe drinking problem. Willis stumbles along inept and uncaring until your other boy Mos Def makes an appearance. Speaking of Mos Def, he’s in Dave Chappelle’s Block Party this weekend too and I think it’s fair to call him an emerging star. Willis and Def have great chemistry and comedic timing throughout. This film has more laughs than you would think based on the serious looking posters.
The story commences with Jack Mosley (Willis) being asked to take Eddie Bunker (Def) over to the courthouse 16 blocks away for a wee bit of testifying in front of a grand jury set to hand down indictments. Of course if it were that simple this film would be a commercial and so of course all kinds of hell breaks loose. As it turns out Bunker is set to send a smorgasbord of cops up the proverbial river, which doesn’t sit well with New York’s “finest”. Mosley is forced to lay it all on the line for a stranger and the film throws a predictable amount of twists and turns to keep up interest.
If it weren’t for an end that really dwindles and a few logic issues this could have been something really special. I was interested as soon as Willis starting drinking straight liquor, let’s face it guys who drink their whiskey straight up are usually not the sort to trifle with. I think a different style of ending would have served 16 Blocks well, something not as easy perhaps. I also wish there would have been more genuine suspenseful moments as opposed to what we’re given which is essentially plot devices used to get us along to the next “harrowing” moment. It can’t be harrowing if you know they are getting out of it somehow right? Maybe that’s just curmudgeon talk for me not being surprised by much in this effort.
I will say I don’t have a problem recommending this as a theater experience. You won’t be mad if you see it; you won’t curse it or ask for your money back or anything. It’s quite adequate in its own little way. On the other hand you won’t look forward to the DVD or rave to your friends. It’s a nice lay-up instead of a resounding dunk, but hey, couldn’t the team from NYC use a little bit of both these days?