21 Bridges don’t actually feature that much in this film. But I’m OK with that as the film was filled with enough intrigue and action to make up for it.
The gist of 21 Bridges is that a cocaine robbery goes wrong and ends up with several cops dead. This leads to a city-wide manhunt for the two suspects. Following an NYPD detective, Andre Davis, who is known for his reputation for pursuing and killing “cop-killers”, he is brought in to lead the manhunt. A label that Davis is uncomfortable with and claims all the shootings were in self-defence.
After getting the approval from the mayor and the FBI, he shuts down all 21 bridges on the island of Manhattan, but he has only until 5 am to caught the killers before the FBI take over. But he soon finds out while investigating that a nefarious conspiracy is afoot. Davis is not sure who he can trust his colleagues, even his partner on the investigation – Frankie Burns, a narcotics detective.
Given that they only have until dawn to find the two men, this helps to create an atmosphere of urgency and suspense. I was pleased that it is shot almost entirely during the night, as it gave it a gritty feel. This is a well-paced thriller, with each twist or unveiling perfectly choreographed throughout. That’s not to say this film is perfect, far from it. Sometimes the dialogue is a little clunky and almost unrealistic, but fortunately this doesn’t happen often. But you can forgive it for the most part.
The main character (played by the late Chadwick Boseman), although firstly depicted as a cop that has no qualms about shooting criminals – has another side to him. He believes he was justified in his shootings but his primary motivation is to find the truth no matter what. And it is this drive, which not only motivates him to see it to the end, but also what makes 21 Bridges so compelling to watch.
I also found the two cop killers to have some compelling scenes as well. It’s not often you watch it from the criminals’ point of view. And there is no doubt these guys are criminals. But as the film unfolds you realize these small-time criminals have been thrust into the big game – much against their will. Both Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch, are perfect in their roles as the desperate criminals, who are questioning everything they know.
Though, there is a lot of drama in 21 Bridges, it does not mean it is not action packed. The cops and Davis catch up with the killers several times, and it always ends with a shoot out. It is a race between Davis and the other cops, whom he is suspicious of their intentions. Everyone else wants this wrapped up neat and tidy, but Davis needs to hear the criminals’ story as he feels something is off. Unfortunately for both him and the men on the run, everyone else is not far behind.
However, the ending in 21 Bridges seemed a bit too tidy and easy to be realistic. Though there is a very dramatic shoot-out that precedes it, which is well worth the watch. I just felt that this film with its conspiracy story and build-up would have had more of a thrilling ending. It just was too predicable in its storyline, this is a film that you have probably seen a hundred times before. Thankfully the cinematography, gorgeous landscape and good actors make up for this limp script. One thing I can say is that they perfectly time the duration and pacing of 21 Bridges, so you won’t notice the predictability until it is wrapping up.
21 Bridges isn’t the film of the century for sure. But if you are looking for a good old-fashioned manhunt that keeps you entertained, look no further.