16 Blocks (2006) – movie review

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Movie Review by Nigel A. Messenger

Starring: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, Jenna Stern, Casey Sander
Director: Richard Donner

Bruce Willis plays worn out cop Jack Mosley who has to escort ex-con and now key witness Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) 16 blocks across town to a court hearing that will expose corruption in the police department.

Jack, at the end of his career and too heavily reliant on the bottle, isn’t expected to care about his assignment so there’s surprise all round when he goes all out to protect his witness, even from the group of dirty cops whose sole task is now to kill the state’s witness and if necessary their friend and colleague Jack.

On the surface 16 BLOCKS seems like it has the potential to be a smouldering, possibly even action packed thriller, especially with a star like Bruce Willis and quality director Richard Donner but it doesn’t take too long to realise that 16 BLOCkS is not in the mood to excite and is too concerned with character development for its own good.

There’s no doubt that Willis can act but he does such a realistic job of portraying the depressed, has-been cop that it’s hard to like his character that much. Unfortunately Moss Def also portrays his character far too well and although this would be acceptable in small doses, spending 102 minutes of screen time with the two of them is just asking way too much for the type of audience this film should be appealing to. Yes we want to care about the integrity of Willis’ cop and yes we want to admire Def’s character portrayal of the simple minded but endearing ex-con loser desperately trying to turn his life around but this whole emotional ride gets totally in the way of what should be an exciting movie.

To make matters worse I couldn’t help but think that 16 BLOCKS was nothing more than a poor reworking of the classic 1977 Clint Eastwood movie THE GAUNTLET. Again, cop with problems has to get state’s witness to trial except over a much greater distance. Now I could go on and on here about what a great movie THE GAUNTLET is and point out all the parallels but instead I’m simply going to recommend that you forget about 16 BLOCKS and watch THE GAUNTLET, even if you’ve seen it before, because that is such a better movie!

2 out of 6 stars