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16 Blocks - Review

Bruce Willis and Mos Def in 16 Blocks

Review by Jack Foley

IndieLondon Rating: 3.5 out of 5

BRUCE Willis returns to familiar territory as a lone cop facing overwhelming odds in 16 Blocks, a competent and extremely enjoyable thriller from Lethal Weapon director, Richard Donner.

Rather than facing off against terrorists, however, Willis’ Detective Jack Mosley must outwit his fellow police officers in order to protect a key witness (Mos Def) and get him to court in time to testify against them.

16 Blocks won’t win any prizes for originality but it does entertain thanks to some slick direction from Donner, a nice central performance from the under-rated Willis and a worthy adversary in the form of David Morse.

It’s a crowd-pleaser that knows how to press all the right buttons – and when to do so. Yet crucially, it doesn’t pretend to be anything that it’s not.

At the start of the movie, Willis’ Det Mosley is an overweight, boozy slouch with a poor attitude and an awkward limp. He is the complete opposite to Die Hard’s John McClane, a man who has seen too much and who is simply counting the days to retirement.

When asked to escort small-time crook Eddie (Def) the 16 blocks downtown so that he can testify before a grand jury, whose term expires in just under two hours, Mosley is less than enthused, particularly as his charge has a motor mouth that renders him more than a little annoying.

But after stopping off to top up on his supply of alcohol, Mosley is called upon to save Eddie from potential assassins and quickly discovers the truth about his witness.

Subsequently faced with a choice of sitting back and allowing his corrupt colleagues to kill Eddie, or doing the right thing, Mosley opts for the latter and so begins an unlikely journey towards personal redemption.

Eagle-eyed fans may recognise plot elements lifted out of countless westerns, as well as the forgettable Clint Eastwood vehicle, The Gauntlet, particularly when Mosley commandeers a bus to complete his journey.

But by placing as much emphasis on character as action, Donner succeeds in transforming 16 Blocks into a superior cop thriller that actually benefits from trading on the familiar.

The action sequences are smartly executed and frequently exciting but work as well as they do because of the expertise of the actors.

Willis, especially, is on fine form as the complex Mosley, using very few words to convey his mixed up state and the confusion and regret he undoubtedly feels at a career gone stale.

While Def somehow manages to remain endearing despite an annoying lisp and a tendency to play things a little too cute (his petty crook wants to give up a life of crime to become a baker).

Morse, too, is on sterling form as the villain of the piece, Mosley’s former friend and partner who will stop at nothing to save his own career.

Once it arrives, the finale is fairly predictable and needlessly sentimental. But, as is so often the case with these types of movies, most of the fun is to be had during the journey itself.

Audiences seeking some purely escapist entertainment should therefore be suitably impressed.

Read our interview with Bruce Willis

Certificate: 12A
Running time: 1hr 45mins

  1. Go Bruce! Even with a paunch and a limp this action hero still rocks. Roll on Die Hard 4!

    Brian    May 4    #