For Black and Blue, director Deon Taylor (Supremacy) teams up with screenwriter Peter A. Dowling (Reasonable Doubt) to provide a gritty, although sometimes unoriginal, tale of corruption in post-Katrina New Orleans.
Afghanistan war veteran Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is a rookie cop who is new to the 5th precinct, assigned to the desperate and drug-filled 9th Ward in New Orleans. After just three months on the job, she takes her first night shift so her partner can have an evening with his wife. Alicia is quickly plunged into the ugly side of police business in New Orleans, and a routine call with her temporary partner, Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), ends with her witnessing dirty cops killing suspects. To make matters worse, she gets the murder on body cam, and now she must try to survive in an area where cops are at best distrusted, and her brothers in blue will desperately go to any lengths to get that body camera.
The story is sometimes original and at other times, particularly early in the script, a dull repeat of earlier films with similar themes. It is the location that sets this film apart, including the use of some true history of the area to drive the tale. Once into the meat of the film the script strengthens and churns along at a pace that is easy to enjoy.
Many of the actors perform well, particularly Naomie Harris in the lead, but there is a consistent lack of anything resembling a local dialect. Many viewers will overlook this but it will stand out prominently for anyone who knows the region. Tyrese Gibson as Mouse gives an excellent performance as a man reluctantly drawn into a mess he would rather just stay out of, while Frank Grillo’s Malone is adequately menacing, if not three-dimensional. A few of the more minor police characters also overplay the ‘bad cop’ role making them at times seem almost cartoonish, but overall the viewer does get a sense of police corruption and the ‘blue wall’ trying to cover it up.
The settings do much to add to the story, showing the depressing conditions in that often-neglected part of the Big Easy, as well as how run-down portions of the West Bank location of Algiers remain. It adds realism to a film diluted by the poor imitations of the local dialect. The cinematography excels here, showing the reality of the streets, homes, businesses, and alleyways.
Excellent use is made of both sound and soundtrack to enhance the feel of the film. Distant background noises seem natural, moving the viewer into the world that has been created. Most of the songs are organically placed as something being listened to rather than just playing over the action, which also adds authenticity to the film.
Black and Blue is an enjoyable film that plays out in a very similar manner to other stories about a cop or individual that sees something they shouldn’t. The setting is a fun variation from the streets of New York or Chicago, adding a little extra entertainment value to make the repeated theme less dull. As long as attendees don’t go expecting something they haven’t seen before, they will probably leave without feeling bruised.