Friday, March 28, 2008

16 Blocks

"16 Blocks" (Richard Donner, 2006) An odd, efficient little thriller about a broken down cop who gets the bad assignment of driving a police whistle-blower sixteen blocks to the courthouse to testify before the Grand Jury about police corruption. But first he has to run a gauntlet of New York's less-than-finest who all could be sent to the pokey if the kid talks. And after hearing Mos Def's high-pitched, cleft-pallet-patter-way of talking, you start feeling some sympathy for their thinking, too. Cop and whistle-blower have two things in their favor: a populace more suspicious of the police than those running from them, and director Richard Donner, who, though he may have problems with pacing, seems completely incapable of placing his camera in any place but the best position to convey action and meaning, no matter how claustrophobic the surroundings. Bruce Willis is the reliably unreliable cop drinking to retirement, who finds one last thing to fight for, although his persona tends to shift a bit from barely functioning to resembling an older John McClane without a sign of shakes as he draws down on a colleague. Willis is fine, though, as is David Morse as the crooked cop with the most to lose. Of the two endings shot, the one attached to the film is the most "blue sky," and it's not really satisfying. The better down-beat ending, unfortunately, depends on a character turning when he's shown no previous sign of doing so. Neither one works completely, but at least the "Happy" ending strains credulity a bit less. Over all, not bad, really.

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