Brian Kirk (Game of Thrones) directs 21 Bridges, from an original-sounding screenplay by Adam Mervis (The Philly Kid) and Matthew Michael Carnahan (World War Z). Unfortunately, this story of the New York City men in blue unravels at virtually every seam of the uniform.
When Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) was 13, his father, a New York City policeman, was killed in the line of duty. Now, 19 years later, he is on the police force with a reputation for bringing down cop killers. When a robbery results in the deaths of several of New York's finest, Andre joins the investigation and plots a novel way to bring in the killers before they can escape-by closing down all transit out of Manhattan Island. But as the time he has to complete the investigation narrows, he realizes that some things about the robbery don't add up.
The premise is interesting, but the closure of Manhattan is one of the only original concepts. The story progresses from point to point in such a similar manner to earlier films that it is almost like a second viewing instead of a first run. The lack of understanding of real-life interdepartmental and inter-precinct operations forces the suspension of disbelief to, and sometimes outside of, its limits. The film tries to be more intelligent than it is, to the audience's detriment. Add to this some noticeable errors in scripting, and there just isn't anything left worth viewing other than a few raw action moments.
Despite this, Kirk pulls off a decent job directing his actors and many of his sequences. Boseman gives an excellent performance as the attentive, sharp-eyed, driven cop determined to solve the case with only five hours to do it. Equally talented is Stephan James as Michael, an intelligent, small-time criminal who is in way over his head. The rest of the cast rounds out nicely with veterans J.K. Simmons, Keith David, Sienna Miller, and Taylor Kitsch.
The cinematography runs back and forth between well-conceived and unstable; some scenes are difficult to follow because of how fast the camera moves. This is very noticeable for one chase in particular, where differentiating between the protagonist and the antagonist is almost impossible. Offsetting this is a high-quality soundtrack that keeps the film moving along nicely despite its shortcomings, helping to keep viewers in their seats instead of running for cover.
21 Bridges is a film with some good acting, decent technical aspects, and a fantastic soundtrack. Unfortunately, it has a script as predictable as the stops of a New York subway, and as unreliable as its arrival times.