Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (March 17, 2020)
Affter the Marvel Cinematic Universe dominated his career across a couple of years, Chadwick Boseman returns to non-superhero work with 2019’s 21 Bridges. Well, at least until 2022’s Black Panther II hits, that is.
The son of a slain officer, Andre Davis (Boseman) joins the force as an adult and becomes known as a detective who hunts and takes out alleged “cop killers”, perhaps in violation of the law. With some questionable killings on his record, this leads to a certain reputation.
When a drug heist goes wrong and two cops end up dead, Andre finds himself on the case. As he pursues the culprits, he learns of a greater conspiracy, one that causes him to order a total shutdown of all exits out of Manhattan.
That’s where we get our title, as 21 Bridges alludes to the ways people can leave the island. Of course, it ignores other methods, but I guess 21 Bridges, 4 Tunnels and 3 Rivers became too much of a mouthful.
In truth, the Escape From New York-style notion of a completely isolated Manhattan proves more like a gimmick than a necessary plot point. I get the feeling the filmmakers came up with the premise to sell tickets, as it plays little real role in the story.
Not that Bridges does anything else to stand out from the crowd. A tale of corrupt cops and a crusading officer out to find the truth doesn’t feel especially fresh, and even with the “closed-off island” notion, the movie can’t come up with a new spin.
Universal released Bridges the week before Thanksgiving, a choice that felt odd. Perhaps the studio intended it to act as “counter-programming” to soak up sales to adults who didn’t want to see that same day’s juggernaut Frozen II, but an “R”-rated thriller seemed like a strange offering over a family holiday.
And the decision didn’t work, as Bridges failed to find much of an audience. Would it have fared much better with a more logical September or October release? Maybe not, but it still came across as an awkward fit with Thanksgiving.
I suspect Bridges also suffered because of its trite nature. After all, Knives Out didn’t look like traditional holiday fare, but it did well with a day-before-Thanksgiving release.
Knives found a way to intrigue the audience with its genre fare in a way Bridges didn’t. While the former gave us a fun twist on the murder mystery, the latter delivers a wholly ordinary cop drama.
Though not one devoid of entertainment value. Bridges comes with enough curveballs to keep us interested, so it never really threatens to lose the viewer.
In addition, Bridges boasts a solid cast. In addition to Boseman, we get professionals like JK Simmons, Sienna Miller and Taylor Kitsch, all of whom provide wholly capable performances.
None of this can quite save Bridges from its “been there, done that” vibe. While it attempts twists, none of them make a real impact.
These factors leave Bridges as a fairly “by the numbers” cop thriller. It musters decent watchability but doesn’t create a particularly compelling journey.