Willis and Def Bunker Down
"16 Blocks" is unsurprisingly a pretty stereotypical action flick starring Bruce Willis in a similar role to the sort which has dominated his Hollywood career. I can see the sales pitch now producer: "Bruce we have a great role for you. You play a time weary New York Cop who finds himself in the thick of the action when he has to protect a witness", Bruce: "Ok, do I get to wear a vest and shout yipee-kay-aye", producer: "No, but you get to shoot people and be the hero", Bruce "Ok, I'll do it". "16 Blocks" is really that simple, another Bruce Willis action flick which whilst stereotypical is also expectedly entertaining.
In "16 Blocks" Bruce Willis (Hostage) plays world weary Detective Jack Mosley who is given the unenviable job of driving a fast-talking witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def - The Italian Job) across New York to the courthouse. But along the way Mosley discovers that Bunker is about to testify against one of his colleagues and a corrupt section of the NYPD wants him dead. With both their lives at risk, Mosley must decide whether to protect Bunker or show loyalty to his colleagues.
Despite starting a little slowly "16 Blocks" does have something a little different about it. Although there is no real character background given we quickly get to realise that Willis's character, Detective Jack Mosley, is a tired old cop with something troubling him that causes him to seek solace in drink. The character works well and the fact he has to deliver a witness across town, a job he doesn't want to do, actually builds up the intrigue of where this is leading and why. But then the minute we discover that the witness is going to testify against another cop the movie quickly goes down hill or at least the storyline.
Part of the trouble is that you have to question why such an important witness would be given to a tired old cop who obviously has a drink problem, to deliver across town. It doesn't make sense and causes the storyline to then quickly decline into a chase movie with Mosley & Bunker basically having to navigate their way through New York with a bunch of corrupt cops on their tail. Now I don't mind these sorts of movies, there is a place for them but "16 Blocks" actually feels that it could have been much more a more inspired and clever thriller cum action movie instead of just your rudimentary chase movie.
It doesn't help that "16 Blocks" is bereft of tension. With the clock ticking as Bunker has to testify by a certain time you would have thought that there would have been a bit more urgency about things but sadly not. There are often shots of a clock showing the time running out but it never really feels immediate or that Mosley actually cares about getting him there in time. Add to this that when "16 Blocks" does try to offer up a twist it is such a throw away moment that it isn't important to the overall storyline because by then it has become purely an action movie.
Although this is another stereotypical role for Bruce Willis he does again prove that he is one of the best actors to fill this role. But this is not just because he is very good at doing all that on the run shooting stuff but because he manages to make a 2 dimensional character interesting. It also helps that the make up team have done a good job of both ageing Willis but also making him look like someone with a serious drink problem from the pasty appearance through to the constant sweating.
Opposite Willis is Mos Def who as an actor I like but his character, Eddie Bunker, has to be one of the most annoying, whiney creations ever been forced upon us. I honestly don't understand why Bunker had to speak in such a whiney voice as not only did it end up grating but made a lot of what he said incomprehensible. Trust me if I had been Mosley I would have wanted to put a bullet in him myself.
Adding to this and seriously underused is David Morse as the crooked Detective Frank Nugent. Morse is a great actor and despite spending most of his career in supporting roles always creates a good character. Unfortunately, but understandably, the majority of the movies focus is on the buddy relationship between Mosley & Bunker and so in those scenes in which Morse features he never really gets to stamp his authority on them.
What all this boils down to is that "16 Blocks" is very much an enjoyable, stereotypical action movie which features Bruce Willis in a very archetype role. It has its problems and could have been made into a far more interesting thriller rather than a basic action movie. But for fans of the likes of "Die Hard" will undoubtedly enjoy it as it again shows Bruce Willis doing what he does best.