I tell this story sometimes to illustrate the evolution of the film watcher. When my old dude was stationed in Korea, The base theater would show the ‘new releases’ some six months behind schedule every Sunday. So Sundays for us kids was movie day. This particular Sunday our movie was Clint Eastwood’s ‘The Gauntlet’ and me and my other 13-year-old friends left the theater swearing we had just seen, arguably, the best movie EVER! A few Sundays later, we subjected to Paul Newman’s ‘The Verdict’. Whatta snoozer. Not a single car chase or gunfight in that whole two hour mess. Some of us actually went to sleep.
Fast forward 15 years or so. I’m sitting around the house and notice ‘The Gauntlet’ is coming on NBC or whatever. Remembering it as a 13-year-old being the best movie ever, I sit down and watch probably the stupidest, most inane, most implausible movie of all time. Damn Clint, what was up with that? Some months later, ‘The Verdict’ comes on Showtime or what-not, and it is absolutely one the finest films I had seen at the time. A very well written, taut, gripping drama. What the hell does this have to with 16 Blocks? In ‘The Gauntlet’, Clint Eastwood plays a broken down drunk cop who has to get a criminal minded witness from point A to the courtroom to testify while dirty cops pull out the heavy artillery in attempting to kill them both. In ’16 Blocks’ Bruce Willis plays a broken down drunk cop who has to get a criminal minded witness, played by hip-hop star Mos-Def, from point A to the courtroom to testify while dirty cops pull out the heavy artillery in attempting to kill them both. 13-year-olds rejoice! Your film has arrived!
Directed with precision by the near legendary Richard Donner, who also brought us Superman and Lethal Weapon, 16 Blocks isn’t near the belief suspending crock that ‘The Gauntlet’ ended up being, but it does require that you shut off some brain cells to gain full entertainment. Bruce Willis’ Detective Jack Mosley may be a down and out, drunk on the job, bum legged, loser, who thinks death would be better than the life he leads, but he has little trouble staying one step ahead, mentally and physically, of the cops trying dispatch him and his pesky witness. Leading the Dirty Cop Brigade is Jack’s former partner Detective Frank Nugent played by David Morse who completely awesome in this role. Maybe a little too good actually. Morse as the sly, easy going detective with a phenomenal mean streak, effectively portrays his character as a wise, street savvy police veteran, with a sixth sense for his prey’s next move. With loyal
soldiers under his foot, Top police brass bending at his will and a freaking GPS satellite system to track his victims, the match of wits between Morse’s Nugent and Willis’ Mosley seemed extremely lopsided. But it’s a movie, so…
And I know that Mos-Def is black, and he raps, but his role as a petty criminal who I assumed is supposed to have some kind of violent edge just didn’t work for the guy. I mean the man does have mad ability. He was best thing in Hitchhikers guide to the Galaxy, and his work in ‘Something the Lord Made’ was a revelation. Here, however, he seemed more mentally challenged than criminalistic (is that even a word?). And quite honestly he was starting to grate on a nerve.
But the flick did have some nice action set pieces, and it did manage to keep me entertained for the majority of the film. It has a strange ending sequence involving Willis, Morse and parking lot, but I won’t spoil it for you. All movies seem to have a hard time ending themselves. So bring out the 13-year old in yourself and have a good time at the show. Just remember 15 years from now that I told you so.
Bruce Willis can do it all as an actor. Whether he's tearing up the screen in the "Die Hard" series, or doing character-based films like "Nobody's Fool", (plus lots of movies in between), Willis has proven his versatility and his ability to carry a film. Well, it's a good thing that the filmmakers were able to get him to play the lead in "16 Blocks", because not too many other actors could have pulled this one off.
Buds Second: "16 Blocks" is basically a mobile version of the movie "Assault on Precinct 13" from a couple years ago. (Precinct 13 is a decent movie too, and worth renting if you have the chance and haven't seen it.) Bruce Willis plays a ragged and worn-out cop named Jack Mosley, a walking death wish who discovers in this movie that his sense of justice is still alive within him. Jack couldn't care less about Eddie (Mos Def, and Mos Annoying in this film, purely as the fault of his character) when he initially picks him up and starts taking him on the 16 block trek to the courthouse. But when Eddie finds himself in harm's way, Mosley's cop-instinct comes back to life. And when Jack discovers that Eddie is about to testify against a dirty NYC cop, he decides to
protect and deliver him to the best of his apparently still-considerable ability. Even if it means matching wits against his former partner Frank Nugent (David Morse, who is terrific in this role).
"16 Blocks" is nicely directed by Richard Donner (he of the Lethal Weapon series). And honestly, there's a fair amount of Lethal Weaponry in this movie too. Plenty of close-shaves, shootouts, car chases and explosions, all fairly balanced with moments of introspective conversation for character development.
So it's all good, right? Well not so fast, as this movie has it's fair share of problems too. First off, Mosley's transformation from decrepit cop to super hero (think "Hard to Kill" blended with MacGyver) is a bit hard to believe. But even if you buy into the transformation, there's literally no way that he and Eddie could have escaped some of the scrapes they found themselves in, no matter how quick-witted and wily Mosley was. But if you can suspend your disbelief (and trust me, the only reason that you would be able to is because of Bruce Willis), you will find "16 Blocks" to be an enjoyable action movie, worth the price of admission.