Review – T’Challa in the Concrete Jungle (“21 Bridges”)

So, after doing Marvel movies, what do producers, the Russo Brothers decide to do? Why, grab Chadwick Boseman, star of the hugely popular Black Panther MCU films, and drop him into a police drama set in NYC! Hmmm… isn’t that a little close to home, guys? Is Shuri gonna be his top CSI gal? That I’d like to see!

The island of Manhattan, New York. With 22 square miles and home to appx 1.6 million people, there’s roughly 95,000 major crimes committed every year there from petty larceny to first degree murder. Yikes! In the wee hours of the morning, two criminals, Michael Trujillo & Ray Jackson (Stephan James & Taylor Kitsch),  rip-off a restaurant that’s really a front for holding a mega-cache of uncut cocaine. However, problems soon arise when cops arrive and a major shoot-out ensues, leaving eight badges dead and many questions unanswered. Entering onto the scene is NYPD Detective Andre Davis (Boseman) who’s under the microscope with I.A. for a past shooting.

Partnered up with narcotics detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), they piece together the crime scene and, with permission from the Feds and crusty Captain Matt McKenna (J.K. Simmons) of the local 85th, Andre gets the city on lock-down; closing off the bridges, tunnels, subways, and all transportation out of Manhattan! BUT it’s only for five hours, so he better work quickly. Gathering clues here and there, they know who the perps finally are and issue a city-wide search, while Trujillo & Jackson are going crazy trying to run from the law AND stashing their newly acquired money at the same time at a safe house.

Andre, while tracking these two cop-killers down, is slowly suspecting that something isn’t kosher in the 85th. Too many mistakes and odd coincidences are happening for him not to see a pattern. The third act is the best with a foot race between Andre, Burns, and the bad guys and the inevitable twisty reveal at the end. Just as harrowing and intriguing as Inside Man or The Taking Of Pelham 1-2-3, this tight, smart, and fast-paced script by newbie Adam Mervis and Michael Matthew Carnahan (World War Z) does something very unusual: it gives away the reveal from the get-go! From the first ten minutes of the movie you can easily guess what’s going on and what ‘secrets’ are being hidden. Nevertheless, it’s a fun ride to see Andre (like many TV cops) figure it out on their own.

And speaking of newbies, this is director Brian Kirk’s theatrical debut, although he’s been directing TV series like Game of Thrones, Luther, and Penny Dreadful. His camera moves aren’t basic or standard either, but shows accuracy and a wicked flair for the dramatic. Really good stuff! The casting is superb, too. Boseman, looking lean and mean, is strong and delivers a great performance, while Miller is excellent as his plus-one sidekick. And then there’s Simmons who, I gotta tell ya, no matter what this guy does, hits it out of the ballpark every frickkin’ time. Look for Alexander Siddig in a small, but nice cameo role

And while I’m giving props, Stephan James & Taylor Kitsch are just terrific. Kitsch, breaking free from his silly roles of being chased by aliens or Martians, gives a scary performance as a trigger-happy kill-monger and James, fresh off his If Beale Street Could Talk role, is dazzling as the nervous hood with a conscience. The only question I have is: could a NYPD detective really get the island of Manhattan shut-down, in and out, for five hours like that? Or was that just Hollywood writers nonsense? If you have that answer, let me know, okay? I’m very curious!        

Die Hard With A Vengeance (1995)

How far will a cop go to get the bad guys? In this third installment of the Die Hard franchise, legendary washed-up cop John McClane, played to the hilt by Bruce Willis, who goes full-tilt crazy with the help of a reluctant civilian partner named Zeus. And who else could play a guy named Zeus but Samuel L. Jackson?

Five years after the nutty events of Die Hard 2 (remember that Dulles airport thing?), McClane is back home in NYC and facing his ol’ nemesis: a hangover. He’s called in after a terrorist, calling himself “Simon”, bombs a downtown department store and demands John do something idiotic or another bomb will go off. Under orders, John has to wear a sandwich board in Harlem that says “I Hate Everyone” (the TV version), but is saved by Zeus Carver before some guys kill him. However Simon (Jeremy Irons) ain’t through with John yet! More and more riddles and puzzles come phoning in while John & Zeus try to solve them.

Meanwhile, the FBI has found out that Simon is really Peter Krieg, aka Simon Peter Gruber, brother of Hans Gruber, the guy that John killed in the first movie. Oopsie! And while John & Zeus and zipping all over NYC to solve a puzzle or stop a bomb from detonating, Peter is hatching a nefarious plot: the robbing of the Federal Reserve Bank and their cache of $140 billion of gold bullion! Peter’s crack team of nasties, including his evil slice ‘n’ dice girlfriend, Katya (Sam Phillips) kill everyone and pull off the heist, preparing to leave NYC, but that just pisses-off John when he figures out what Peter did.

John, now hell-bent on capturing Peter at any cost, goes on a rampage of chasing him down through bridges, tunnels, highways, and finally on a ship where he and Zeus almost meet their maker. But you know that McClane, he just won’t die hard and ultimately saves the day and kills the bad guy. Yaay! For some fun, check out the alternate ending, it’s actually better than the theatrical one!

In a very rare exception the rule, this third entry didn’t suck! Jonathan Hensleigh (Jumanji, Armageddon) came up with an explosive script that just moved and delivered with a bang (pardon the puns), nicely calling-back Hans Gruber’s bro as a twist. Speaking of which, Jeremy Irons is especially ice-cold and ruthless with his accented smugness. And Sam Jackson? McClane becomes HIS sidekick, making the movie all his with his banter and wit! Willis scored big with this third film, which was good because the next two, Live Free Or Die Hard and A Good Day To Die Hard, both tanked at the box office.

Another reason this movie scored so high was the director, John McTiernan, who directed the first Die Hard movie. The man knows knows how to shoot action movies (Predator, Last Action Hero, The Hunt For Red October) and once again does not disappoint. Tasty Trivia: When Zeus lifts a bar of gold and quips about it being heavy, it really is. A normal bar of gold weighs 25lbs!

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