Starring Chadwick Boseman Sienna Miller Stephan James Keith David Taylor Kitsch. Directed by Brian Kirk.
Who needs a CGI budget the size of your aunt’s second mortgage when you want to make a nuts-n-bolts thriller? Not Brian Kirk, that’s for sure. With his debut feature 21 Bridges he makes a throwback against-the-clock action movie, which might not hit a Michael Mann level, but gives it a bloody good shot.
21 Bridges takes place over one long night where detective Andre “Dre” Davis, known for shooting perps – though never without cause, he says – is called to a robbery that has left seven police officers dead at the scene. He teams up with narcotics detective Frankie Burns, and sets about getting his two robbers.
21 Bridges is the kind of film you watch on a late night; it’s a hardboiled B movie in every sense. Apart from a little backstory business to do with our heroes dad dying, the film’s focus is on the robbery that escalates into eight dead, tons of coke missing and a blood line all the way to Manhattan. “We close the bridges and flood the island with blue” decries Chadwick Boseman, still as stoic as he was as Black Panther, and the game is afoot.
Boseman is good in his central role, though it’s a fairly flat boring role, and as Burns Sienna Miller is nicely underplayed but also ultimately wasted. The film looks to Michael Mann for the “two-sides of the same coin” motif that made Robert De Niro and Al Pacino so compelling in Heat, but in the end tips the balance so that would-be robber Stephan James becomes the most compelling.
It’s pretty on the nose as far as movies go and when the twists come, they’re easy to spot, but the film isn’t really interested in that; it wants to be a pulse-pounding chase thriller with shoot outs and F-bombs, and dollars to doughnuts it manages to do it. Several key action sequences are not only tense but bloody and effective, and while the death toll rises, so do the stakes for everyone involved.
JK Simmons and Taylor Kitsch know the movie they’re in and decide to ham it all the way up. Simmons in particular deserves credit for delivering the line “I heard you were in IA this afternoon, I hope you’re in there tomorrow too” without cracking a smile, and Kitsch does the most with his by-the-numbers thug role being better than he has been for some time.
Brian Kirk also doesn’t want to spend too long getting down to business. He’s making a B movie, and its strength is the time frame; our hero is given five hours to close these guys in and before long he’s getting to them, so in the end it’s not a whodunnit it, it’s more about closing the noose around desperate people.
Your enjoyment of the film might entirely depend on how much you enjoy silly thriller movies, but for anyone who wants the kind of films that would have been made starring Al Pacino or – on the cheaper end – Chuck Norris, 21 Bridges is the kind of late night, white knuckle movie you just can’t resist.
Paul Klein is a Film Studies Graduate from London, former writer at The Metropolist.