Director Brian Kirk’s 21 Bridges is a fast, exciting, no-nonsense cop thriller which in its disciplined 99 minutes manages to deliver in satisfying if not ground-breaking style. Featuring a strong lead performance from Chadwick Boseman, it recalls the great cop thrillers of yesteryear, without necessarily adding anything particularly distinguished to the pantheon.
Boseman is Andre Davis, a highly skilled and morally upright detective who has no regrets about shooting the bad guy when the occasion demands. A tragic past is revealed in a strong opening, as a child at his father’s funeral. Incidentally this scene makes clever use of that passage in Romans Chapter 13, about those who do evil should fear, because rulers (and their agents, cops) do not bear the sword in vain. All of that sets up Davis, who is then assigned to investigate a drug heist that went wrong and ended in the murder of several policemen. The killers are on the run with the loot on Manhattan island, and to stop them escaping, Davis decides to close all twenty-one bridges onto the island, in an effort to tighten the noose and locate them before 6am the following morning (when the FBI insist the island will have to reopen).
Kirk milks the ticking clock premise with aplomb. Memorable action scenes include a thrilling foot chase that recalls The French Connection. Elsewhere there are nice directorial flourishes, such as the lovely overhead shot of the funeral at the start, with lines of policemen replacing their caps in a sea of white dots. Performances are good – not just from Boseman, but also the supporting cast which includes JK Simmons, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, and Alexander Siddig.
Whilst certain elements of the plot are predictable, the genre thrills are deployed with lean efficiency. 21 Bridges isn’t going to be remembered as a classic, but it is a decent, solid, three-course dinner of goodies and baddies police thriller. The usual cautions for violence and bad language apply, to those who like to be warned.
UK Certificate: 15
US Certificate: R
Content Warnings: Violence, swearing