***1/2 (out of 5)
March 3, 2006
Bruce Willis as JACK MOSLEY
Mos Def as EDDIE BUNKER
David Morse as FRANK NUGENT
Jenna Stern as DIANE MOSLEY
Studio: Warner Bros.
Directed by: Richard Donner
BY KEVIN CARR
Listen to Kevin’s radio review…
Every actor has his or her set of stock characters they play. Even the greatest actors – like Jack Nicholson and Robert DeNiro – keep this set of stock characters in their arsenal. Stock characters, if played well, can make a mediocre actor seem great. This is the entire explanation for Julia Roberts’ career. After all, she was great in “Erin Brockovich,” but stunk up the joint in movies like “Mary Reilly” and “Hook.”
Bruce Willis is the female equivalent of Julia Roberts. He’s not a particularly great actor, but he does turn in good performances from time to time. Usually his best roles all seem to be cut from the same cloth. Whether it’s a good guy (like in last year’s “Sin City”) or a bad guy (like in the forgotten film “The Siege”), Bruce uses his stock character in almost everything he plays.
Now, he’s out with a new film: “16 Blocks.” In it, he plays an alcoholic, washed up, has-been cop down on his luck… again. Not only have we seen versions of this character in almost every Bruce Willis film made, we’ve seen the exact same character in everything from last year’s “Hostage” to his breakthrough role in the “Die Hard” films.
In general, I do get a bit tired of watching Bruce Willis acting drunk and hung-over on the silver screen. Nothing against drunks, mind you. Just tired of watching it.
However, Willis’ character in “16 Blocks” is revealed to be this retread down-on-his-luck cop pretty early, so I had plenty of time to come to terms with this before the film really got off the ground.
The story follows Jack Mosley (Willis) as he tries to transport grand jury witness Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) from county lock-up to the courthouse 16 blocks away. Part-way there, Mosley stops in a liquor store to get some booze, and assassins come after Bunker. Mosley saves the witness’s life, and they take off running, trying to get Bunker to the courthouse before the grand jury expires in less than two hours.
There’s no surprise as to who is after Bunker. It’s a batch of dirty cops, led by Frank Nugent (David Morse), who will be sunk if Bunker testifies against another dirty cop.
Yup, you heard me right. Dirty cops. Another roaring cliche.
It was a bit difficult to take the addition of another painful cliche like this, but I accepted it soon enough. It’s like finding an egg shell in an egg salad sandwich. The quicker you swallow it after you crunch down on it, the sooner you can go on enjoying the sandwich.
Eventually I managed to enjoy this sandwich of a movie. If you hate cliché’s too much, you’ll want to steer clear of this and any other Richard Donner cop flick.
Overall, the action sequences of “16 Blocks” are pretty intense, and the rapport between Willis and Mos Def is decent. I generally like Mos Def’s acting, although he slurs through most of his dialogue. And apparently for this film, he decided to emulate Mike Tyson’s voice in the character.
“16 Blocks” isn’t very original at all. However, it can be fun and works as the bit of escapism that it is.