VOD film review: 21 Bridges
James R | On 09, Jan 2021
Director: Brian Kirk
Cast: Chadwick Boseman, JK Simmons, Sienna Miller, Stephen James, Taylor Kitsch
Chadwick Boseman is the kind of actor who makes it impossible to look anywhere else when he’s on screen. While his most well-known roles were playing symbolic, heroic figures such as Jackie Robinson, Thurgood Marshall and Marvel’s Black Panther, his natural charisma is also evident in one of the lesser-seen roles of his all-too-short career – the sizzling thriller 21 Bridges.
Boseman stars as Andrew Davis, a homicide cop who is known for tracking down his targets with ruthless determination. That means he’s both a hero and a dangerous figure, investigated by Internal Affairs for his trigger finger but also a straightforward boy in blue who stands out in a sea of corrupt cops and questionable ethics. He’s immediately chosen by Captain McKenna (JK Simmons) to solve a hot mess when a drug deal goes awry and leaves seven police officers dead – but if that’s because McKenna hopes for a swift, lethal resolution to the manhunt, Davis brings a clarity to the confusion like an old-school Western gunslinger, shooting for redemption by taking down the real cause of the problem.
It’s a tale as old as time, but one given a slyly modern edge, and Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s script finds a nice balance between complicated issues of perception and justice and efficient genre thrills. They begin the film with the criminals (Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch) who kick off the mayhem, as they find themselves set up and then surrounded by police. Then, we jump to Davis and his new partner (a solid Sienna Miller) as they petition the authorities to close off all the bridges to the island of Manhattan, giving the suspects nowhere to run.
Director Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones) captures the closed-off locations with a snappy pace and a deceptively ambiguous perspective of events, while knowing when to hit the accelerator and simply enjoy the noir-tinged dialogue. But this is Boseman’s show, and he elevates his NYPD veteran to a character who’s interesting enough to make this an explosive ride – not least because the film doesn’t need to rely on loud VFX explosions, or unnecessary gore, to entertain its audience. There’s a grown-up heft to this conspiracy thriller, one that reminds you just how versatile Boseman was – and leaves you wondering whether he might have had another franchise on his hands.