I'm not trying to be a hero! I'M FIGHTING THE DRAGON!!

16 Blocks

It pains me to deliver this news, but Bruce’s new one is not too hot. It’s not terrible, it’s mediocre, which of course is usually worse.

The premise of the movie is that Bruce is a washed up, alcoholic cop who’s been up all night and before he can go home he has to deliver a witness sixteen blocks from the jail to the courthouse. He really looks like he could use a nap, but that never comes up in the movie. It would be cool if there was a suspenseful scene about whether or not he could take a nap without getting shot.

But despite the tiredness, this doesn’t sound like a hard mission. Right away you’re figuring geez, sixteen blocks is all? This is gonna be a short movie. You figure maybe 2 minutes to walk a block (that’s probaly being conservative), plus a couple minutes to get him signed in, it’s not gonna be longer than 40 minutes. You start thinking maybe there should’ve been a discount on the movie tickets. BUT THERE’S A CATCH. He drives him the 16 blocks instead of walking, and the traffic is bad. So it’s alot slower than walking. Also, he stops at the liquor store, so that causes a little delay. And also the witness is gonna bust open a huge police corruption scandal so all the cops are trying to kill him and Bruce’s character Detective Jack Moseley decides to do something right for a change and get this guy to his destination. Remember, he was a cab driver in THE FIFTH ELEMENT and maybe he has a little of that work ethic still in his sense memory. Anyway, because of shootouts and hiding and what not it takes longer than expected and it seems like they end up travelling alot more than 16 blocks overall. (they should probaly tell you in the corner how many blocks they are from the courthouse, kind of like EIGHT BELOW keeps telling you how many days the hero dogs have been alone in the snow.)

16 BlocksThe witness is played by Mos Def. We know from DAVE CHAPPELLE’S BLOCK PARTY and whatever the space movie was he was in, this guy can be funny. You can’t tell that from this movie, though. He talks in a nasally cartoon voice for the whole movie that seems like it’s maybe supposed to be funny, but he only gets one or two funny lines. He mumbles to himself alot and is obsessed with birthday cakes, and I think he’s either supposed to be shizophrenic or mildly retarded. But it’s not really funny or sweet and it feels like it’s trying too hard to be both.

Mos Def’s character is named Eddie Bunker, but everybody refers to him as “the kid” for the entire movie. I looked it up, and Mos Def is 31 years old. Maybe they shoulda gave him a backwards baseball cap and a scooter to emphasize that he’s playing younger than he actually is.

The leader of the corrupt cops is veteran prick actor David Morse, who chews gum for the entire movie. You never see him putting gum in his mouth so I’m thinking maybe this is why he’s such a prick, his gum has no flavor.

Near the end Bruce and Mos get trapped in a bus with hostages, and they cover the windows with newspapers and then try to ram the bus through a wall of cops. This is the point when you realize holy shit, this really is just like THE GAUNTLET, where Clint Eastwood played a washed up cop who had to deliver a witness that other cops were trying to kill, and he hid inside a bus that he had to drive through all the cops with all the firepower in the world. Only difference is Clint had enough smarts to rig the thing with hillbilly armor and that gave him the extra edge over Bruce. But Bruce managed to get out and continue the chase on foot which is also admirable. I guess when all you have is newspapers your bus just isn’t going to withstand as much damage, and you have to find a different last stand.

I like Bruce’s performance in the movie but there’s just nothing original or exciting enough about the story and its execution to make this one stand out. Bruce is real stoic which would be a good thing but it forces you to spend more time listening to Mos Def’s annoying character. None of the action is all that thrilling either. Everything is only okay.

Now, this gives away the ending of the movie sort of but I have to complain. What the fuck are they thinking having Bruce secretly record the bad guy confessing what he did? This shouldn’t have to be officially declared, but I’ll go ahead and do it. ATTENTION ALL HOLLYWOOD SCREENWRITERS. YOU ARE NOT ALLOWED TO USE THIS KIND OF COPOUT ANYMORE. It’s been done. It’s over. Used up. If you use it now, you look like an idiot. The audience feels ripped off. The babies cry. The flowers die. You’re ruining everything. I know it takes some smarts to figure a different way out of a difficult situation, but that’s why we’re paying you. We want to see Bruce find a cool way to solve his problems. If Bruce can’t figure it out, you have to. And recording the bad guy saying what he did IS NOT a cool way. Stop it.

For now on, all Hollywood studios that use the “bad guy makes incriminating speech that is secretly recorded” device must pay me $100 emotional stress restitution for each instance. You may signal your compliance with this agreement by releasing new movies.

That’s about all I have to say about 16 BLOCKS so let me add an unrelated complaint. Because we don’t follow the rules around here, I’m gonna tag a different topic onto this review. Before the movie there was a trailer for LUCKY NUMBER SLEVIN, another Bruce movie that comes out next month and looks more promising. So I’m all excited for some Bruce Willis fun and then the next trailer is for UNITED 93, the movie about the plane that crashed in Pennsylvania on 9-11. Talk about a fuckin bummer. I know this Paul Greengrass guy is supposed to be good, he did BLOODY SUNDAY and I’m sure it’s more tasteful than it sounds. But for god’s sake, Greengrass. Maybe you oughta retitle this shit TOO SOON: THE MOVIE. I’m not the most sensitive guy in the world, I even watch serial killer movies now and again, but even I don’t want to see this shit. Seeing that trailer sandwiched between a Bruce Willis trailer and a Tyrese trailer made me sick. I know this guy is British so he’s a little more distanced from it than us, but have a heart, bud. This is a movie where you know that every character represents a real person who really died just five years ago, and their relatives are still alive having to see this movie advertised before 16 BLOCKS and on TV, in magazines, probaly on the side of buses and crap. To me, movies are about the most important thing there is and I defend anybody’s right to make a statement that maybe the rest of society is not ready for. But come on man, even if the movie is fucking great, this might be a case where just doing it makes you an asshole.

A friend of mine manages a video store and told me FLIGHT 93 was on a list of upcoming movies they could do a fun promotional tie-in for, like they did with HILLS HAVE EYES and DATE MOVIE. No matter how respectful and classy the thing is it’s still pretty fuckin tacky just because it’s a movie being released like a product.

And worst of all, Greengrass, you don’t know what happened on the plane. I don’t think it takes a conspiracy theorist to figure we don’t know what really happened there. I’m sure they’ll go with the official story but what happens when the real story comes out, whether the plane was shot down or who knows what, and then the family members have to live with the extra burden of having to explain to people that the awesome movie version was bullshit?

Or if it really is 100% accurate, what business is that of ours anyway? At this point in history isn’t it okay for the family members to have to live with that horror without having us enjoy it as thrilling cinematic drama? It’s like EXECUTIVE DECISION, but BASED ON ACTUAL EVENTS! And everyone dies instead of just Seagal.

Greengrass, for your insensitivity and crassness I sentence you to having to watch 16 BLOCKS a bunch of times in a row. Jerk.

VERN has been reviewing movies since 1999 and is the author of the books SEAGALOGY: A STUDY OF THE ASS-KICKING FILMS OF STEVEN SEAGAL, YIPPEE KI-YAY MOVIEGOER!: WRITINGS ON BRUCE WILLIS, BADASS CINEMA AND OTHER IMPORTANT TOPICS and NIKETOWN: A NOVEL. His horror-action novel WORM ON A HOOK will arrive later this year.
This entry was posted on Sunday, March 12th, 2006 at 2:16 am and is filed under Bruce, Reviews, Thriller. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

5 Responses to “16 Blocks”

  1. I think with a solid script rewrite, this could’ve been a really sick movie. The whole redemption angle was a good one, and I thought The Bruce acted the hell out of this thing, regardless. Overall, I think part of the reason I don’t mind (and own) this movie is because it ends with Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe”, which always puts me in an oddly positive mood.

  2. RANDOM THOUGHTS I HAD DURING THIS MOVIE (by Paul):

    – Vern, I hadn’t even read your review and the first scene made me think of “Gauntlet”.
    – HOLY SHIT the two leads are annoying. What is Mos Def doing? Why is he talking like the “Home Alone” kid in full panic mode? Is he trying to channel Snails from “Dungeons and Dragons”? And what the fuck does Bruce have on his face? Is that some kind of caterpillar? Do we need a depressed version of Danny Glover in “Lethal Weapon”?
    – The kid’s name is seriously “Eddie Bunker”? As in Reservoir Dogs? Does he have two mates called Donny Trejo and R Lee Emery?
    (This is almost as annoying as Kelly Hu and Robert Carlyle in “The Tournament”. Ok, NOBODY is quite as annoying as those two. But this is close.)
    – Oh good, the world-weary cop who thinks all criminals are scum and will receive an important life lesson through the power of badassery. We’re breaking new ground here people.
    – THE DIALOGUE MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE AGAIN. I mean, seriously? Am I the ONLY person who spots this stuff? For example, David Morse points out that Bruce is “unarmed” DESPITE THE FACT THAT BRUCE WAS POINTING A GUN AT HIM FIVE MINUTES AGO AND MADE SURE HE DIDN’T SEE HIM DROP IT. Is it just me or are dumb action movies like this getting dumber?
    – At one point, a bullet-time effect fades into an avid fart. Two annoying effects for the price of one.
    – How many dirty cops ARE there in this damn city?
    – Spanish guitars are the new noodling guitars. It’s now official. Seriously, it worked for one brilliant TV show (Dexter). Why are there Spanish guitars in downtown New York THIS MAKES NO FUCKING SENSE?!!

    And then there’s the bar standoff between David Morse and a bunch of dirty cops, and an unarmed, thankfully silent Bruce Willis and an even more thankfully silent Mos Def with a gun to his head; and David Morse is icily scary as the corrupt cop, and HOLY FUCKING SHIT THIS IS AWESOME and why the hell is there not a single other moment in this stupid, stupid movie that’s as good as this?

    So basically this movie is:

    – Annoying guitars cliche’d dialogue introducing annoying lead character and more annoying sidekick oh David Morse HOLYFUCKINGSHITTHISISANAWESOMESCENE dumb dialogue incoherent action I don’t know where anybody is annoying annoying annoying FOR FUCK’S SAKE SHUT MOS DEF UP oh great let’s bring the army in as if there weren’t enough police already oh thank God it’s over.

    So if that sounds like your cup of tea, well rent “sixteen blocks” and have yourselves a ball.

  3. Oh, and seriously… the cops really fell for the “clothes switch” dodge? With only two young black guys on the fucking bus? What the FUCK??!!!

    And how the fuck did Bruce know who Mos Def was at the end of the movie, but not at the beginning of it, if he was one of the corrupt cops all along? What the FUUUUUCKK???!!!!!

    THIS… MAKES… NO… FUCKING… SENSE!!!!!!!!!!!!

    A point about action direction, seeing as there’s so much discussion of it right now… at three points in this movie, there are time “jumps”. We see Bruce Willis in an ambulance or in a liquor store, intertwined with shots of somebody sneaking up on Mos Def or Bruce’s sister. Tense music plays, tension rises. And then… magically… Bruce appears behind them (a second before he was drinking out of a bottle on a bar stool) to save the day. This, my friends, is called cheating. The timeline plays in strict progression at a set speed and then, without warning, “jumps”. This is just bad direction. It takes away from the movie.

    Ok I’m done.

  4. caruso_stalker217

    March 19th, 2011 at 7:49 pm

    Nobody can chew gum in as douchey a fashion as David Morse. Really good dickhead gum-chewing in this film by Mr. Morse.

  5. Yeah, David Morse was excellent in this, did the absolute best with what he had. The bar standoff is basically two or three minutes of nothing but him talking, not coincidentally meaning that Mos Def and Willis AREN’T talking. And it’s fantastic.

    Y’know, I think I’m going to invent a name for this phenomenon. I’m gonna call it “Mission: Impossible 3” syndrome. It’s when one single scene in a movie is so far above the quality of everything else in it that the good scene is actually annoying. It reminds you of how much better the movie could be.

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