When it comes to cop movies, the transporting of a fugitive is always a popular source for a storyline. The most famous must be Clint Eastwood’s The Gauntlet. Richard Donner’s 16 Blocks follows the same route as Eastwood’s 70s classic, except this time instead of spreading it out across America, we stick to just 16 Blocks in New York.
Detective Jack Mosley is a down and out cop who is given the less romantic of jobs. Hitting the bottle hard, his reputation as a good cop is somewhat tarnished and so he has to do things like sit in apartments full of dead bodies to stop anyone from entering. His next job is to escort Eddie Bunker, a fast-talking convict from a lock-up to the courthouse to give evidence in a trail. A simple enough job. Just 16 blocks and Mosley can go home. However, along the way, Bunker is almost killed and it soon turns out that it’s not going to be easy at all, especially with the whole of the NYPD wanting him dead.
A well-worn tale is actually given enough twists in the plot to keep your attention. Donner is a skilled director to know how to keep the pacing going and when to give something new for the audience to keep watching. This is a straight cop thriller than his more famous Lethal Weapon series and yet it’s just as engrossing.
Bruce Willis ticks off the alcoholic, broken cop from his list of flawed cop characters and does a very good job. What he brings to the role is a man who knows that he has nothing to lose and so is determined to get the job done regardless.
If there is a negative to this film (and this is a huge negative) then it has to be Mos Def as Bunker. This voice is the most annoying since Chris Tucker’s in The Fifth Element (what is it with Willis attracting horrible sounding actors?) You have to listen really hard to understand what he says most of the time and you really don’t want to listen that hard for fear that your ears will bleed. Underneath that squawking sound the relationship between Willis and Def is good. If only Donner had told him not to speak like that (or maybe he thought it was a good idea).
It’s not a film that will rate up there with the greats of the cop thrillers but it does the job and you find yourself drawn into the story and wondering how it will eventually end, which is what a movie should do. Not perfect by a long shot but it passes the time away very nicely.