By: Oberst Von Berauscht (Four Beers) –
Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is an ex-Army vet who has recently joined the New Orleans police department, working the same neighborhoods she grew up in. She’s been away from the neighborhood for years, and now dressed in a police uniform her old friends treat her completely differently. She voluntarily wears a body-camera, while other police resist the idea. And then Alicia witnesses a murder of several drug dealers at the hands of Narcotics detective Malone (Frank Grillo), all caught on that camera. They waste no time and try to kill her as well. Alicia is forced to go on the run from her own police department. Unsure who to trust, she turns to the people she used to know, in hopes that her new uniform and the baggage that comes with it don’t turn them away from her as well…
I just “blue” myself…
This dark police thriller brings back memories of Training Day in that it spans a day in the life of a young police officer as she learns about the corruption among the rank and file in her own department, and particularly with an individual officer who has set himself up as a sort of king among the dregs. Director Deon Taylor films New Orleans’s 9th Ward like the bombed-out horrorscape everyone remembers from those images of post-Katrina. It gives the film a nearly post-apocalyptic feel at times, and while that’s not entirely fair to the city of New Orleans at large, it is used as a commentary on the harsh impact of poverty on crime.
Naomie Harris is an admirable lead as West, clearly demonstrating her versatility as a performer. She carries the brutal intensity of an ex-soldier with the sensitive sensibilities of a person whose return to her home has found herself alienated from those she once knew. Tyrese Gibson plays “Mouse”, a convenience store clerk that West leans on for help in her emergency. He plays a valuable foil to West’s intensity, as his streetwise but straight-arrow character tries at first to resist helping her, but gradually gains a level of respect for her that develops further as the story progresses.
Yes, they look good together, and yes, that was a spoiler.
Where Training Day emphasized character development and ramping up the intensity of the situation from the first shot, Black and Blue lacks the dynamic gut-punch it needs to truly satisfy. The film’s opening sequence where Alicia West is shown on duty with her partner jumps you right into the action of her police work, never giving you an opportunity to gather who she is as a person, other than one who disapproves of her partner’s behavior when he bangs up too hard against a few perps. The fact that she’s ex-military is stated in dialogue but never really feels like a part of her character until a gunfight at the end of the movie when when she gets a chance to go tactical. And even then, it is a fleeting moment, and she goes back to seeming like just another inexperienced rookie.
Black and Blue blows its most intense moments with too on-the-nose dialogue that is meant to be topical. The “torn from the headlines” stuff about the body cam and the police brutality is handled without an inch of subtlety. And while Training Day is far from subtle, either (in fact it’s even more overt than this), it managed to take time to let you get to know characters, even the nefarious ones, so that you can get inside their head and see what makes them work. The villainous cops in this movie are comic-book evil, existing solely to trouble the main character as the story progresses.
The film’s finale is particularly botched, as the resolution comes far too abruptly and resolves so clean it is almost shiny. A gigantic army of police blast through a ghetto apartment building, leaving countless bodies in their wake, and then most of them seemingly disappear, conveniently leaving only the corrupt ones to continue to pursue West.
“Do I gotta be the dirty cop in every movie?”
Black and Blue attempts to be topical and winds up feeling like straight action-thriller schlock. It is entertaining for what it is, but don’t take it seriously.
Black and Blue (2019) Movie Review
Do a Shot: for cinematic schlock trope: computer hacking
Take a Drink: each time Darius’ grill is exposed
Take a Drink: for Frank Gillo frankly grilling.
Do a Shot: each time “Blue” is referenced