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Awesome: 11.11%
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6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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16 Blocks
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by Peter Sobczynski

"a.k.a. 'Bruce Willis' Block Party'"
4 stars

Ever watch a movie that you have never heard of before on cable and suddenly become convinced halfway through that you actually have seen it before. Many will probably have the opposite reaction while watch the new action thriller “16 Blocks”–they will catch it in a theater and become convinced halfway through that they have already seen it on cable at least a dozen times. This is an unironic and unapologetic throwback to the glory days of fender-headed 1980's action films. It contains a mismatched pair of heroes–one a burned-out cop more interested in nursing his constant hangover than in solving crimes and the other a motormouthed petty criminal who knows too much about a much bigger crime–who get out of one scrape after another while trading barbs and bullets, a plot that somehow seems unfathomably convoluted even though you could scribble a complete summation of the important particulars on a matchbook and a series of action scenes in which the heros are still able to walk after taking an enormous amount of punishment, the bad guys can’t hit the broad side of a barn at point-blank range and every third scene concludes with something blowing up real good.

Our burned-out cop is Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis), a once-heroic cop who has allowed himself to atrophy into the kind of perpetual drunk whose secretary passes along Altoids with his messages and who is on a first-name basis with the owners of the liquor store. (At a crime scene, he is the one who gets the gig of babysitting the corpse and even that seem beyond his powers.) As the film opens, he is at the end of a long shift, out of booze and ready to collapse when he is drafted to run a quick errand–transfer prisoner Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) to a courtroom 16 blocks away so that he can testify before a grand jury that will be disbanding in under two hours. Stuck in a traffic jam, Mosley decides to pull over and grab a bottle of booze while leaving Bunker in the back seat and when he gets back, he finds himself in the middle of an ambush. Somehow, his old instincts kick in and he is able to gun down the bad guys and hole up with Bunker in a nearby bar.

Before long, a group of police, led by Frank Nugent (David Morse), Mosley’s former partner, arrive at the bar and fill Mosley in on a few additional details. Bunker was going to testify in a case revolving around corrupt police officers and if he speaks, a lot of cops, including Nugent and his men, are going to go down. Nugent encourages Mosley to just step aside and look the other way, as he usually does, while they make it look like he was killed trying to escape. Since if he does that, the movie will be over after only 30-odd minutes, it should come as a surprise to no one that Mosley decides to do the right thing and struggles against seemingly impossible odds to get Bunker to the courtroom on time. During the brief downtime between the gunshots, we learn that there is more to Bunker than his criminal past (he just wants to be a baker) and that there is also more to Mosley than meets the eye.

Those of you whose knowledge of film history extends all the way back to 1977 are no doubt thinking, “Hey, isn’t this just a veiled knock-off of “The Gauntlet” with Willis playing Clint Eastwood and Def playing Sondra Locke?” Well, both films feature an alcoholic burn-out who pulls himself together to get an important witness to the courtroom against the clock and an army of cops who will do anything to stop them. Both films feature a mismatched dup who hate each other at first but who eventually grow to like and respect each other. Finally, both films feature a sequence in which the heroic cop commandeers a bus and barrels it down a city street while the cops use it for target practice in an effort to stop it. However, there is one key difference between the two. In “The Gauntlet,” you may recall, the cops emptied thousands of rounds into the bus but never hit upon the idea of shooting out the tires. In “16 Blocks,” the cops eventually hit upon the idea of blowing the tires and bring the bus to an eventual stop. This is either a signal of progress or a sign that the NYPD (or at least their Vancouver dopplegangers) has begun using “The Gauntlet” as a training film.

Okay, so “16 Blocks” won’t be winning any prizes for originality anytime soon. That said, it is a knock-off that is told with enough energy and excitement that I didn’t really mind the fact that I had seen it all before. Director Richard Donner, who pretty much defined the mismatched-buddy action epic with the first two “Lethal Weapon” films, is an old hand at stuff like this and is able to tell the story in a reasonably clean and efficient manner. None of it is even remotely plausible for a moment but he handles it so skillfully that you don’t even notice that it is nonsense until the end credits are rolling. He only stumbles towards the end when Richard Wenk’s screenplay throws a throughly unnecessary and implausible twist (yes, implausible even by the standards of the rest of the film) that leads to another depiction of that old dramatic dictum: “If you bring out a tiny micro-cassette recorder in the first act, it will go off in the third to provide crystal-clear audio of a key conversation despite the less-than-ideal recording circumstances.”

Another key element that keeps the film from running off the rails is the performance by Bruce Willis. Even though he still has sort of a public persona of a smirky blowhard (one that isn’t helped by his frequent denunciations of the media, usually made while utilizing said media to promote a film), the truth of the matter is that he has developed into one of the more reliable character actors working today. Although his work here probably won’t go on his highlight reel alongside “Pulp Fiction,” “12 Monkeys,” “Nobody’s Fool” “Sin City” or others you could mention, his performance is a lean and effective bit of work that provides a low-key respite from the over-the-top antics surrounding him.

“16 Blocks” is dumb, disposable entertainment but as dumb, disposable entertainment goes, it is a pretty good example. It gets the job done in an entertaining manner and winds up being a little better than the generic bill of goods that the title and premise suggest. As someone who has seen so many would-be blockbusters that have failed to provide even trace amounts of genuine entertainment, I appreciated the modest achievements of “16 Blocks” and I’m guessing that those in the mood for nothing more than 105 minutes of action that isn’t completely insulting to one’s taste or intelligence will feel the same way.

link directly to this review at https://www.hollywoodbitchslap.com/review.php?movie=14077&reviewer=389
originally posted: 03/03/06 00:03:34
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell boring 2 me 1 stars
4/15/14 Charles Tatum Excellent pacing and some good performances. 4 stars
11/16/11 Golden J. Williams Jr. A real good thrill ride. Willis and Mos Def fit their characters. Must see both endings!! 5 stars
10/10/10 Dymphna Kahl Can see it over & over, always cry at last scene. Mos Def & Willis excellent. 5 stars
8/30/09 Ry entertaining throughout. very good! 4 stars
8/02/08 The Dork Knight Bruce is great as the burn-out cop. Nicely done 4 stars
3/04/08 ladavies This wasn't half bad. I enjoyed Mos Def. 4 stars
9/10/07 Grayfoxx Not bad. Mos Def can actually act. Really worth watching this action flick. 4 stars
7/18/07 mr.mike got worse as it went along , and refused to end 2 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Died on its arse. Great for the geeks who'll watch anything, though. 1 stars
2/02/07 Jennifer I agree, Bruce did great as a burnt out cop, but come on-that story was total crap. Boring! 1 stars
10/26/06 MP Bartley Taut cat and mouse game. Willis, Mos Def and Morse all excellent. 4 stars
8/24/06 Pete Rogers Great portrayals, brilliant treatment of a kind of passion for redemption 5 stars
7/24/06 Indrid Cold Bruce is great as the burnt-out cop, but Mos Def's Dave Chappelle impersonation is annoying 3 stars
7/20/06 Mitchell K. Better than I expected 4 stars
7/17/06 Monday Morning A half-hour worth of story packed into 90 minutes! 3 stars
6/19/06 ES I liked it, I'll recommend it, but I don't have to like the way Mos Def talked in the film 4 stars
5/25/06 Jeff Anderson A great thrill ride with Willis & Def in top, first-rate form. WELCOME BACK RICHARD DONNER! 5 stars
5/17/06 chris f bruce willis may be getting old but he can still do great movies 5 stars
5/05/06 Jane Austen's Enema Best movie I've seen since MEAN GIRLS. Willis and Def should win Oscars. 5 stars
3/31/06 jcjs fun, no brainer, good acting, fine entertainment moves right along, just kick backed Bruce 4 stars
3/13/06 Donny Worth a rent. Bruce is great at these types of movies, even if they are mediocre. 3 stars
3/11/06 Josh Standlee Absolutely incredible! It's always fun to cheer for Bruce! 5 stars
3/10/06 Anthony Feor 16 blocks of non stop talking 3 stars
3/09/06 burton miller fast-paced, excellent dialog, mos def was the shit 4 stars
3/06/06 Elizabeth Quite formulaic and cliche, but Willis is always fun to watch. 3 stars
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  03-Mar-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



Directed by
  Richard Donner

Written by
  Richard Wenk

  Bruce Willis
  Mos Def
  David Morse
  Jenna Stern
  Casey Sander
  Cylk Cozart

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