21 Bridges

We got twenty-one bridges in and out of Manhattan. Shut them down. Three rivers. Close them. Four tunnels. Block them. Stop every train and loop the subways. Then we flood the island with blue“.

I’d like to start off this review by stating that my brother and I entered this film expecting to have a jolly good meme of a time. For those of you who somehow dodged all 21 trailers played before every single film for the past 21 weeks, I tip my hat to you. For the rest of us who did not escape in time, or in my case, loved every single second of its hilariously bad editing and sound design, you should know exactly what you’re getting yourself into. 21 Bridges is on all accounts the most stale and boring time I have had in theatres this year, and yes, I did see The Kitchen, 47 Meters Down, 3 from Hell, and Men in Black: International. Actually, it might be tied with Rambo: Last Blood. So by the end of it all, much like Chadwick Boseman‘s Detective Davis, I found myself regretting the night. His perturbed exclamation of frustration over his shift, reflected my own thoughts leaving the theatre, “I will find out why tonight happened“.

To your possible surprise, 21 Bridges is not directed or written by the Russo Brothers. Despite having their names plastered all over the film, even more so than director Brian Kirk, or a decent list of cast members, the Russos are just producers. But yes, within the first scene, they include an Avengers namedrop.  Another film in the line of cop drama corruption that like almost every film within the flooded genre since Training Day, fails to add or say anything refreshing or entertaining. When eight New York Police Department officers are murdered at the scene of an unexpected massive drug bust, Detective Andre “The Killer of Cop Killers” Davis is called in to investigate. Teaming up with experienced ATF (Bureau of Arms, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives) agent, Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), the two decide to close down the island of Manhattan and hunt down these two killers block by block. Now what these criminals don’t happen to know, is that Detective Davis swore his life to his own personal code, the badge, and to avenge any clean cop who has been killed in the line of duty. Davis plays the moral high ground, incorruptible, Serpico-esque figure, who is just as capable of arresting and/or killing a dirty cop, as he is a drug dealing thug. If you’ve been exposed to the very comical trailer set to Future’s “Mask Off”, you know the quote. Please take a moment to read the included opening quote to this review otherwise. 

21 Bridges is as by the books as you get, and despite having some competent direction, comes off as hollow and emotionless as Chadwick Boseman’s face when you ask him to “Wakanda Forever” for the umpteenth time. The plot is so simple that I’m actually offended that the trailer is a better time spent than actually sitting through the entire film. It’s slightly over 90 minutes long, and yet you can accurately solve everything, pinpoint the proper culprits, arrest them, read them their Miranda Rights, take any one of the 21 bridges to the precinct, book them, drive back through one of the 21 bridges back home, finish your review and post it, all within the first 20 minutes of the film. Honestly, you can probably call all the twists -if you can even give it that much credit- from the trailer. I find it so infuriating when a film is so predictable that the second you see a specific character wall in scene, you can shout out, “Hi I’m the bad guy, but you need to wait an hour before you’re certain”. I wasn’t asking for much from the film, and when I realised that they were actually aiming for a serious tone, I knew the memes would not follow. 

There are some brief moments of decent action, primarily the wine store shootout teased in the trailer. I found Taylor Kitsch and Stephan James to be the best elements of the film, and their tactical maneuvering was certainly appreciated. The latter of the criminals actually delivers some admirable yet very minuscule moments of drama. It’s clear to see that despite a bland overall plot, the script itself was incredibly weak and failed to innovate or perpetuate any active intrigue to the investigative narrative. Again, the film is a bit over 90 minutes, but it easily felt like it went over the two hour mark. As a whole, 21 Bridges falls more into drama than action, and I was really hoping that the obvious drama would halt halfway through the runtime and give way to some better final act action. You would have thought that with so much hype and central focus on the 21 bridges of 21 Bridges (only 15 are shown), that the film would have the legitimacy to at least include one action set piece or revelation on one of them!? The likes of Run All Night, Collateral, and even Cop Land all came to mind, but 21 Bridges falters far below every single one of those, as well as wasting most of its cast. Most heinous of all is a severe underusage of J. K. Simmons, Keith David, and Sienna Miller, the first two almost certainly just phoning it in to collect a quick check. Every notable name involved, including Boseman, has been in better projects. 

With a plot too transparent to earn your attention, and action too brief, 21 Bridges is an absolutely generic waste of time. Then again, it shouldn’t come as any surprise, especially when the production company themselves lacked the minimal care and insight to detail, that they thought Manhattan only had 17 bridges. That’s right, they failed to do a simple drive or Google check, and had almost greenlit the film as “17 Bridges”. But I digress, unless Manhattan decides to make some traffic adjustments, we need not worry about ever seeing a 22nd bridge. While I don’t think it’s pure dumpster fire that you need to actively avoid -as it’ll be a fine at home streaming view- I recommend going with a different choice for movie night. I strongly advice giving Ford v Ferrari a drive, if you already haven’t.

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Film Studies/History graduate, using my love and knowledge of the medium to pass as a critic. I’m typically known for longer write-ups, and my eclectic taste ranging from awards darlings, European filmé, indie spirits, cinematic universes, and most notably 80s cult films. Hope you’ve enjoyed your visit, and remember, watch whatever, whenever, with whomever.

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