(R) 2 Stars

Jim Walker

Bruce Willis as Jack Mosley and Mos Def as Eddie Bunker

Say what you will about network TV, it does at least one thing right: police drama. With Law and Order and its spin-offs on the tube eight days a week, cop movies on the big screen should be held to a higher standard. Why pay big money to watch something you could get for free at home?

That's exactly the question I was asking myself as I sat through 16 Blocks, starring Bruce Willis and Mos Def. This could have been any episode of NYPD Blue, 24 or Homicide. If so, we would have watched it one night and thought, "Wow, that was a pretty powerful episode." Then we would have turned the channel to the late local news and heard about the weather.

The new Willis movie is equally disposable and forgettable. It's an old story. He's a hump of an alcoholic detective told to transport a witness from the jail to court. Only this isn't any ordinary witness. This is a witness (Mos Def) who'll be testifying against the city's dirty cops (which may very well be all of them). These good guys gone bad - led by an ominously gum-chewing character played by the baby-faced David Morse - aren't about to let that happen.

Somehow, these cops go around shooting up the place like it's Dodge City and never get into trouble. Most of the time, they are shooting at Willis, who, for reasons unbeknownst to them and me, decides to take the irritatingly verbose witness under his wing. Mos Def isn't a bad actor, really. His squeaky voice is just painful to listen to for two hours. It's hard to keep from screaming, "Shut the hell up," at the screen. If that's what director Richard Donner was going for, it's a smashing success.

While there's not much to the story and the interplay between Troubled Young Black Man and Burned Out Drunk Cop is totally predictable, I still enjoyed watching Willis in this movie (one of the stars is for him). His face is so expressive and he's so good as a fallen hero who limps around and sweats a lot. He also looks hilarious with a porno moustache (the other star up there is for his upper lip). SPOILER ALERT: I especially like how, at the end of the movie when everything is better because this incident changed his life so much and he's no longer a maudlin mope, the Willis character has shaved. Message being: mustache bad, no mustache good.

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