6 out of 10
Closely reprising his role as Hartigan in "Sin City," Closely reprising his role as Hartigan in"Sin City," Bruce Willis is an aging jaded cop, placed in a nightmare position where "doing the right thing" pitches him against his collegue as a wanted man. Tired and exhausted from being on duty for over 24 hours, Jack Mosley is told he has to perform one more duty on overtime before he can leave for the day: he must escort Eddie Bunker, a prisoner from jail to trial, a distance of just 16 blocks in 181 minutes.
Nothing could seem simpler for Mosley until hitmen try to kill his ward and he quickly becomes aware that Bunker's evidence will put half a dozen corrupt cops in a klink for many years to come. With Mos Def having clearly had at least some acting lessons after his lamentable performance in "Hitchiker's Guide to the Galaxy" his theatrical agents patience has paid off with a reasonable portrayal of Bunker, a small time theif who dreams of opening a baker's shop.
As Willis and Def sprint across the rooftops, dodging the bullets like an old Kojak episode, as they are pursued by gum chewing Frank Nugent (David Morse), his ex-partner, it might seem like the same old thriller we've seen so many times before. Backed by a career spanning numerous box office successes, Willis has wisely used his leaverage to appear largely in flicks with interesting plots ending in unexpected ways, "The Sixth Sensc" being a case in point, and stronger characterization. Still, Willis must surely have had second thoughts with Richard Donner in the director's seat, for here is a man with a track record of flatlining a whole host of potential money spinners, from "Any Given Sunday" to "Timeline". True to form, Donner has brought in the conceptually-challenged Glen MacPherson, as cinematography, a clown who specialised in draining the action out of cop dramas like "Exit Wounds" and "Walking Tall" with the dullest of camerawork, and here uses such an excess of handheld camera that all hope seems to ablate away. Despite all this, though, the basic story remains a little gem as writer Randall Emmett, a producer of list of numerous forgettable shorts, has proven at last, that he actually does have a talent - that of writing. In a smart move, he has maintained a total exclusion of love interest that keeps it out of cliche and dazzles us with some earth-shaking twists in the plot, that he keeps well hidden until the very end.
"16 Blocks" might not leave you with the feeling that you have seen a classic that they'll be discussing at the American Film Institute in 50 years but I assure you that you'll have had a worthy run for your money by the end - if only you can reach that destination!
Willis And Writer Beat All Attempts By Director Donner To Gun It Down
Film Critic: Robert L Thompsett