Black and Blue.
This is a surprising time of year for a film like Black and Blue. It’s not an award-contender and it’s not a spooky pre-Halloween outing. This is the type of movie you see in January and February, with very little competition. However, in late October, this movie has an uphill battle ahead of itself as award contenders start to arrive.
Alicia West (Naomie Harris) is a New Orleans native, who left home to serve two tours in Iraq before returning and signing up for the police force. She’s a rookie in the force, teamed up with Kevin (Reid Scott, Veep) and still learning the ropes. One day she’s asked to work a double with a new partner (James Moses Black) and she witnesses what appears to be an execution, as narcotics officer Malone (Frank Grillo) murders a young man. When it’s realized that West has body camera footage of this execution, half of the police force is out to kill her and claim that footage, before she can upload to a police server. To make this more difficult, she’s running from the police in a neighborhood that sees her as an enemy, run by notorious gang leader Darius (Mike Colter, Luke Cage). Her only ally seems to be a local market worker named Milo (Tyrese Gibson) who believes her story when everyone else turns her away.
The gist here is really interesting and relevant. What’s it like for a black police officer in a predominantly black neighborhood, especially when the police have forsaken that part of town? It also manages to weave in a “survive til sunrise” story that is full of action and thrills, so this should appeal to a lot of people.
Naomie Harris is good, but the outstanding performance is surprisingly Tyrese Gibson, who gives a nuanced and complicated performance as he struggles to help a person in need while not becoming involved. In the Fast and Furious films, he’s just comedic relief, but here, there’s some surprising weight to his performance.
What doesn’t work?
Now, I wanted this movie to be better than it ended up being. It’s fine but that’s really the highest compliment I can give.
The biggest weakness here is that the movie doesn’t surprise you at all. If I told you the gist above, you can probably connect the dots and predict how this will play out. There are no twists that are really surprising and even the climax is just about as predictable as it can get. The ride is fun, which is why I’m scoring this right down the middle, but this is a forgettable movie that doesn’t do anything risky or new.
And while Naomie Harris is good most of the time, there are quite a few melodramatic moments that really don’t fit. Something bad will happen and the movie will go into slow motion and she’ll scream in angst. It’s a bit over the top, though I blame the director and editing team for leaving these moments in the film.
I also had a problem with Mike Colter, who played the lead in Luke Cage. Here, he’s supposed to be this threatening force but ultimately his role in a bit underwhelming and the arc of the character is a letdown. Not sure if he was miscast in this role or the writing didn’t work for his character.
While the premise sounds promising, Black and Blue ends up being a fairly tame and predictable journey, with the highlight being a surprisingly good performance from Tyrese Gibson. It’s a decent ride, with plenty of action moments and suspense, but it’ll be ultimately pretty forgettable in a few days after you see it.