21 Bridges Review

It’s fair to say that the Russo Brothers have had a busy few years. They had the keys to the MCU castle for a good few years and delivered some extremely memorable Superhero films, so how do you follow up a 1-2 punch like Infinity War and Endgame? Why by making a run-of-the-mill cop thriller of course.

After a while as a critic, you start to recognise tell-tale signs that a studio or creator doesn’t have the greatest confidence in a project. One of the biggest of these is how the film is marketed; if a film is pushed down people’s throats for a long period of time before release, that’s a red flag, as is revealing more and more of the plot. The best film advertising is for films you don’t really have to sell.

With that theory in mind, the studio behind this film must have trusted it to hold its own about as much Pavarotti can be trusted to guard biscuits. It’s been advertised to hell and back for months in advance, compare this films advertising to Endgame’s and you see a tale of two films, one is trusted to carry its own in its release window, one is trying to fool as many people into the cinema in opening weekend as possible before word spreads, I’ll leave you to decide which is which.

Story

Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is an expertly trained NYPD detective, whose father (also a cop) was killed in the line of duty when he was a kid. When eight officers are killed in one attack, Davis has the island of Manhattan shut down to catch the perpetrators.

Verdict

Everybody get out your cop movie bingo cards and prepare for a busy 90 minutes. Maverick cop? Check. Villain with chequered past? Check? Police department so crooked the city of Pisa wants to make it a landmark? Triple check.

This is a film where the viewer can sing along with all the cliches, it doesn’t merely indulge them, it wallows in them, taking the least interesting aspects of each and cobbling together a shallow and predictable plot, full of characters copied and pasted from any episode of Law & Order, or some other such drama.

I can forgive the occasional passing trope, so long as it’s used to further the plot, or in a different way, but this film seems so averse to taking anything to new places that it stays in its comfort zone, content to sleepwalk through the kind of lazy plot you see in every police TV series or film.

Nothing about it sticks in the memory at all, all of its characters are retreads of the same old tired corrupt officer routine, it’s pacing is so breakneck that the inevitable conspiracy is discovered and then unravelled in quick time, and the ease of which the main character can overcome the enemy makes it feel like a film that has absolutely no stakes. There’s no tension to be had in a film about someone who’s so obviously better than everyone he’s chasing, because it’s obvious he will prevail.

Along with the poorly conceived characters is a plot about as predictable as the sun coming up each morning. Of course the NYPD is corrupt, and of course the plot revolves around the only clean cop in the city, who’s so bloody good at everything that he might well have been manufactured by Skynet. The whole thing reeks of a distinct lack of effort to me, like a bunch of creators resting in their laurels to patch together a plot just acceptable enough to an easily-pleased audience, and it’s so transparent.

The one person I feel sorry for here is Chadwick Boseman, because he looks like he’s trying so hard to make this work, but it’s beyond even his considerable talents, to the point where he’s dialling it in too by the end.

What it all results in is a film that would be instantly forgettable, if it wasn’t so laughable. This is how the Russos follow their Avengers movies? I would have expected better from the Syfy channel, let alone the two guys who delivered the highest-grossing film of all-time.

It’s lazy, it’s predictable, and it’s dull. So very, very dull. A bitterly disappointing slog through a plot so flimsy it would break if a feather landed on it, paired with drab direction and utterly uninspired characters leaves me with the kind of bad taste in my mouth I only usually get after a 4am kebab, utterly generic, and utterly forgettable.

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