Arts

Film: Cowboy cop on a mission in crime thriller 21 Bridges

A tenacious police detective hunts two cop killers on the streets of New York in the action thriller 21 Bridges, writes Damon Smith

Chadwick Boseman as NYPD Detective Andre Davis in 21 Bridges

OPPORTUNISTIC thieves are in the wrong place at the wrong time, sparking a night-time police manhunt through the streets of Manhattan, in Brian Kirk's propulsive action thriller.

Screenwriters Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan milk droplets of dramatic tension from their simple and efficient set-up, running a stopwatch on the frenetic gun fights and car chases from the moment the lead investigating officer reminds colleagues: "If we don't catch these guys in the next three to four hours, they vanish."

On-screen time checks cleanly convey the relentless passage of time from the first pull of a trigger to the cacophony of a bullet-riddled final reckoning that poses uncomfortable questions about the fractious relationship between taxpayers and the people entrusted to protect them.

Chadwick Boseman trades Black Panther's figure-hugging Vibranium weave mesh suit for more simple, functional attire as a morally incorruptible NYPD detective, who has been raised to never shy away from doing the right thing and to always "look the devil in the eye".

He is often the fulcrum of impeccably staged action sequences including a breathless pursuit on foot through the Subway transit system.

Michael (Stephan James) and his military-trained buddy Ray (Taylor Kitsch) receive a tip-off that a swanky restaurant in New York is a temporary hold for a 30kg shipment of cocaine.

The low-level criminals storm the premises after hours and point automatic weapons at a lone waiter, who eventually gives Michael and Ray a key to the downstairs safe.

Inside, the shocked duo find a whopping 300kg of white powder.

A police patrol arrives as the trigger-happy duo escape with considerably more than they came for.

Eight serving officers perish in a hail of bullets and Ray and Michael flee to Chinatown to offload their stash via a high-class money launderer (Alexander Siddig)

Flashing blue and red lights of the NYPD flood the crime scene.

Detective Andre Davis (Boseman), son of a decorated cop who was killed in the line of duty, is assigned to lead the manhunt by Captain McKenna (JK Simmons).

Andre proposes a bold plan of action – the temporary closure of all 21 bridges out of Manhattan and a suspension of train and subway services, trapping the killers on the island.

Flanked by ballsy narcotics division officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), Andre screeches into Chinatown to apprehend Ray and Michael, using lethal force if necessary.

21 Bridges shoots to thrill on familiar territory, emboldened by Boseman's portrayal of a stoic and softly spoken man of honour, who brandishes his badge as a symbol of righteous authority.

Northern Irish director Kirk is a willing accomplice to explosive skirmishes beneath the gleaming glass and metal of a cityscape that never sleeps.

With a sleek 99-minute running time, there's no time for us to slumber.

Rating: 7/10

21 BRIDGES (15, 99 mins) Action/Thriller. Chadwick Boseman, JK Simmons, Sienna Miller, Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch, Alexander Siddig. Director: Brian Kirk.

Released: November 22

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Arts