Brief Review: 16 Blocks (2006)

People can change. That’s the take-home message from 16 Blocks, an entertaining chase film by Richard Donner starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def and David Morse.

Detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is tasked with escorting Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) sixteen blocks across New York to a courthouse. At first, it seems like a relatively simple objective, until it’s revealed that Bunker is about to testify on a case against police corruption. Frank Nugent (David Morse) is one of the officers that’s at risk from Bunker’s testimony, but he’s also Mosley’s former partner. Jack must choose between doing what’s right and what’s best for his colleagues.

An intriguing story brought to life by solid performances from the cast. Bruce Willis takes what could have been a clichéd character in Jack Mosley, an alcoholic, burnt-out cop, and makes him believable. We understand his motives and we empathise with him. Mos Def’s unexpectedly outstanding turn as reformed criminal Eddie Bunker really shines. Initially dismissed as an annoying, constantly whining low-life, Mos Def brings a certain naive innocence to the role. We realise that he’s an affable optimist and a genuinely warm person. David Morse’s Frank Nugent, on the other hand, is a thoroughly deplorable person.

Richard Donner successfully combines the excellent work of the cast with his own. There’s an undeniable energy to 16 Blocks, possibly due to the fact that it takes place in real time. An omnipresent feeling of time running out really helps propel the film forward towards its fitting and satisfying climax.

So people can change. Eddie Bunker changes from a lowly criminal into a sweet, gentle man. Jack Mosley changes from a shady cop into an upstanding citizen. But the biggest change of all is our opinions. 16 Blocks lures us in with promises of a tense chase movie, but we leave with a restored faith that people can change for the better.

4-stars

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