Sunday, March 05, 2006

16 Blocks

Aging Hollywood starlets must just hate Bruce Willis. As he gets older and more bloated, they just write it into his parts, trying to find some kind of nobility in playing the same alcoholic, way-over-the-hill cop time after time.

His part in "16 Blocks" is much the same as his part in the vastly superior "Sin City." Except for this time, we're supposed to believe he finds redemption in the form of Mos Def, acting way beyond the meager bites he's given here.

This movie left so little of an impression on me that it's almost hard to write about it, but I will trudge on.

It's at its best when there's just Bruce and Mos, brought together because Bruce's cop has to get Mos to the courthouse over the titular 16 blocks to testify against some crooked cops who, not terribly surprisingly, don't want him to get there. You can see where this is going, but it doesn't even come close. It just meanders through a series of routine action sequences under a hail of bullets and even deadlier cliches.

There are elements of two much better Pacino cop dramas at work here. When our duo are on the run, they manage to hijack and crash a city bus, giving this movie what little tension it musters in the vein of "Dog Day Afternoon." As our supposed hero Bruce takes on his fellow cops, there's also a very dim shade of "Serpico."

But after borrowing (a nicer way to say stealing) these two motifs, director Richard Donner adds nothing else to "16 Blocks."

Mos and Bruce fight hard to get through this unscarred, and they mostly succeed. Mos is a first-rate actor who will, I'm certain, get to play the lead in a good movie very soon. But here he sinks under the weight of tedious dialogue that almost drowns him.

It's hard to pick out the worst example, but I'll try. When Mos returns to the bus to help out his embattled buddy, he says something about how Chuck Berry and Barry White committed crimes early in their lives, but they changed, so why can't he? Well, I don't know about Barry White, but I have it on pretty good authority that Chuck Berry is just of much of an asshole now as he's ever been.

How do I know? Because Chuck Leavell, keyboardist for the Rolling Stones among many other accomplishments, wrote an entire memoir in which he pretty much had kind words to say about every person he ever met. Every single person in the world of rock was just as kind as could be, except Chuck Berry, who even Leavell had to concede is a royal jerk.

Why bring this up? Because, if a movie is going to try to teach us lessons, it should at least have some clue about what it's talking about.

But, I've wasted enough energy on this truly mediocre flick. Spend your money at Dave Chappelle's big party, or just keep it for yourself.

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