Richard Donner's 16 BLOCKS
Movie review by Dennis D. McDonald
It is fascinating to see how a top notch crew and ensemble of actors transforms a plot composed of overly-familar elements into high quality story telling. 16 Blocks is a prime example of this and turns out to be a superb piece of entertainment.
The movie begins inauspiciously, rapidly moves into high gear, and by the time the last bullet whizzes by, the viewer realizes nearly two hours have gone by without checking a clock.
The plot: Tired Old Cop (Bruce Willis) is ordered to transport Annoying Young Convict (Mos Def) 16 blocks from his cell to a court hearing scheduled in two hours. Along the way the Cop (violently) discovers that a group of corrupt cops (led by David Morse) wants to murder the prisoner before he testifies against them.
Tired Old Cop decides to Do The Right Thing. Against all odds he resolves to get the Annoying Young Convict to the hearing. Along the way we get masterfully concocted chase and fight scenes as well as superb character performances by Willis, Def, and Morse. Cliches are skirted and trumped as director Donner flexes his directorial muscles. Editing and sound design help answer the justifiable question, “How do you stage a convincing chase through the crowded streets of Manhattan when part of the time is spent trapped in a bus with shot out tires?”
This is no Die Hard. There is no smirking, no foreign terrorists, no walking across broken glass in bare feet. What the movie evolves into is a very tightly edited and photographed character study set against a backdrop of expertly-crafted urban chase scenes.