21 Bridges Review – Sharp, A Mean Street Cat and Mouse Thriller

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21 Bridges, from STX Entertainment, presents the story of an immovable force that meets with compromise and corruption and a race against time in the darkened hollowed streets of Manhattan's canyons as they hunt for cop killers.

Directed by Brian Kirk, 21 Bridges stars Chadwick Boseman, J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch, Stephan James, Keith David, Christian Isaiah, Michael Antonio, John Crann, Joseph D. Fisher, Shawn Gonzales, Louis Cancelmi, Andrew Cherry.

The film begins at the funeral for Reginald Davis, a decorated New York Police Department veteran killed in the line of duty. A young Andre, played by Christian Isaiah, sits in the pew as the reverend attempts to comfort those who mourn.

The casket is carried out of the church and a blue wall of NYPD officers stand in the drizzling rain saluting one of their own. The cinematography in the scene creates palpable emotion.


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The film fast forwards, twenty years, to an interrogation room where Detective Davis, played by Chadwick Boseman, is being question by Internal Affairs for discharging his weapon eight times in nine years. To his credit, he explains, he never drew first. He has a reputation as one who kills the killers who try to kill cops.

Day follows night in the city that never sleeps. Tonight two hired gunmen took a job to hit a local drug dealer in the 85th precinct. The two are prepared for war. High powered automatic weapons with enough ammo to take down a small army.

Expecting a snatch and grab the two run into the bar manager who, staring down the chamber, is trying to explain they should have brought more guys. The thirty-kilo score turned into a stash of 300 or more uncut kilos. The street price after dilution would be about ten times the $35,000 for the brick.

Loading about fifty bricks a little more than they were paid to steal, they make their way to the waiting car. A light tapping on the door spooks them and they dropped the bags in the middle of the floor and hide. The unexpected guests, about eight NYPD officers, see the bags and bricks through the window and decide they have probable cause and break the door down.

In the next sixty seconds or less, a gun battle breaks out, the hired thieves were prepared for war and the cops not so much. When it ends eight cops are dead.


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It is at this point that we meet Captain McKenna, played by J.K. Simmons, of the 85th. His precinct took heavy losses. The carnage is littered with shell casings, point markers, blood, and white sheets as McKenna explains to Detective Davis, his expectations.

This is where the story shifts into a race against time. Davis and his new partner, Frankie Burns, Narcotics, from the 85th, played by Sienna Miller, have five hours before the sleeping city awakens.

What follows is web of drug dealers, cleaners, escapes and the unraveling of a plot that leaves you breathless.

A cat and mouse chase, 21 Bridges moves quickly from carnage to capture, with the lead detective facing obstacles from within as heated tempers flare and due process is the time it takes the officer to raise his weapon, point and discharge.

The impossibility of finding these ghosts is shown with a needle in the haystack shot over the city and with each clue the expectation of capture narrows from sky shots to streets scenes as the noose tightens.


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Manhattan with its maze of neighborhoods, streets, enclaves, and a labyrinth of subway tunnels is very much a lead character as all access is stopped; shut down, no way in, no way out.

The film is very well done and the cast exceptional. Chadwick Boseman, J.K. Simmons, Sienna Miller, Taylor Kitsch and Stephen James knock it out of the park embracing their respective characters with undeniable commitment.

The supporting players from the web of midnight crawlers, homegrown drug street cartels who take over when the good people of the city have retreated to the safety of their apartments and bedroom communities, to the massive police presence are all very believable.


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21 Bridges is a whodunit with haunted house shocks and pop ups around each corner. The ensemble cast, directing and editing is extraordinary. The expectation and the ending are two entirely different scenarios.

21 Bridges opens November 21, 2019. See it.

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