REVIEW: “21 BRIDGES” (2019) STX Entertainment

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“21 BRIDGES” opens with a young Andre Davis (Christian Isaiah) at the funeral of his police officer father who was killed by some drug dealers and the clear effect it has on him. Scroll ten years forward to an adult Andre (Chadwick Boseman) who has grown up to be a cop himself, but one with a notable tendency to shoot first and ask questions later.  This leads to him being called up in front of Bureau of Internal Affairs.  As this is happening to him, what is supposed to be a small time drug heist, goes down and several police officers are coldly gunned down by the two criminals who blundered into this unexpected disaster, Ray (Taylor Kitsch) and Michael (Stephan James), both war veterans and extremely loyal to one another. Ray is the typical villain while Michael, although loyal to him, has more sense and compassion and wanted to walk away once things were clearly not going to plan.

Police Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) now has a bunch of cops out for revenge for their fallen officers. In a rare move on this mission-almost-impossible, he decides to pair up Andre with narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller), a tough as nails undercover with a mind of her own – though you get the sense there is more to her than meets the eye.  As the two criminals take to the streets of Manhattan on the run, and with the FBI breathing down their back to take over, Andre makes the decision to shut the entire city of Manhattan down all exit/entries closed hence all 21 bridges leading in and out of the city. Shaken by the loss of eight of his officers, Capt. McKenna continues to hint to Davis to live up to his reputation and take no prisoners.  But Davis’ intuition kicks in as very early on, it becomes clear that dirty cops are involved with all the incidents seemingly pointing to a conspiracy of sorts, and Andre doesn’t know whom to trust. With that, Andre has just one night to solve the case and catch the killers before they escape the city of Manhattan.

Not going into full detail of the entire plot which, needless to say, has many twists and turns sort of running parallel are a police procedural and a crime story from the POV of the criminals. Yet the twists are obvious and predictable with the dialogue being somewhat routine. With a decent character development ’21 Bridges’ should be Boseman’s vehicle, yet it’s Stephen James who is the stand out here. Not only does his character feel like the one with the most to lose, but he’s got a story behind him that conflicts with his actions and he plays it well enough to the point of actually wanting to see him to get away with it all at times.

Nothing super new here story-wise, but the camera work and action scenes were marvelous. Although the plot is not original, the story was fine with good editing, however the script could have been better and acting was average at times. It’s still a decent bang for it’s buck.

Grade: C

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Media Review Screening: Wednesday, November 20, 2019 ~ Courtesy of STX Entertainment

“21 BRIDGES” IS OUT NOW IN THEATERS WORLDWIDE

REVIEW ~ “GET ON UP” ~ Q & A w/Brian Grazer, Chadwick Boseman, Tate Taylor

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Everyone has a favourite James Brown song, no matter what age you are..sometime in your life you’ve heard a James Brown song, snapped your fingers, tapped your foot, danced, sang with it..however you did it, it’s resonated with you.. Or you’ve seen Mick Jagger, Prince, Morris Day, Michael Jackson or Axl Rose perform and realized where they got their moves from.  James Brown is a legend, no question about it.   So let’s just get it right out now.. This is not your typical biopic.  It starts off with an older James Brown, in his 60’s when he was a bit worn down as let’s face it..he wasn’t the most stellar of human beings, definitely had his faults and dare I say it..absolute shady-ness when it came to business practices, the law & his wives.  And he had ego..oh so much ego and referred to himself in the 3rd person..a lot.. But if you were the ‘hardest working man in show business’ I guess you deservedly can at least have some of all of these.

The first 15 minutes or so of the film was hard to follow as it moves all over the place from Brown’s regretfully sad childhood, being left by both parents “Joe & Susie Brown” (Lennis James, Viola Davis), whom you don’t see much of or get to know much about, to being left at and growing up in a brothel ran by “Aunt Honey” (Octavia Spencer), to young James Brown just realizing his talent where it would take him in life, to older James Brown and many different places in his life in-between.  If you’re looking for a linear, chronological order story of James Brown’s life, this film has no interest in giving you that. It’s all over the place in time, which again, difficult at first, but once you get used to how it gets scattered all about, you can concentrate more on the performances, most especially Chadwick Boseman as “James Brown” completely amazing transformation into Brown from 16yrs old, getting arrested & sentenced to 5- 13yrs in the old Jim Crow days of a Georgia prison for stealing a 3-piece suit, all the way on through to a 63yr. old James Brown walking solo down a hallway into a concert venue of screaming, cheering fans, makeup transformation complete. But it’s not just the makeup that makes Boseman into Brown..It’s the embodiment of everything that is, was, and could ever be James Brown that makes it so remarkable. He’s got the moves, the body language, the accent, the facial expressions, all of it…down pat ~ he is to sum it up ~ BRILLIANT in his performance.

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While Boseman also gave a good performance in “42” as Jackie Robinson, the 1st baseball player to cross the racial barrier lines of the National League of baseball,  this movie never really hits on racism to much, as you know Brown had to have experienced this as it was part of the times back then, and they do refer to him trying to get off the ‘Chitlin’ Circuit’ or when he runs into a young “Little Richard” (Brandon Smith) they term the word  ‘white devil’ as Brown refers to his  manager, “Ben Bart” (Dan Aykroyd) calling him that, though the love & respect he has for the man is also clearly shown & apparent, this movie isn’t much to do about that. One pivotal scene in 1968 let’s you know how much Brown did help out by making the mayor of Boston, during the race riots of that year, to let him do his show and just as things are starting to get out of hand with fans jumping on the stage, police throwing them off, Brown stands up to let the audience know to make it about the show.  Also apparent throughout the movie is just how big Brown’s ego was, as he’s knows he is destined to be great, all the while being verbally abusive to those around him, in great supporting cast roles,  such as his best friend “Bobby Byrd” (Nelsan Ellis) & bandmates “Maceo Parker” (Craig Robinson) “Nafloyd Scott” (Aloe Black), “Pee Wee Ellis” (Tariq Trotter) in making them do long rehearsals on days off, not paying them due to his well-known tax problems, making sure they know he and only he, is the boss by detrimentally having each of them answer a silly question about how each instrument that they play, no matter what it is, is just really meant to only serve as percussion.  And though they skip over much of it, his physical abuse of his wives,”DeeDee Brown (Jill Scott)  girlfriends etc.  until they finally leave him..

So while this story being told with plenty of holes in it, the main focus is the music.. the music ..the music..and all the while Chadwick Boseman is just giving it to you at 150mph and you won’t forget it.  If for any reason at all you’re not a James Brown fan, which could be understandable due to he was a man with many faults, see this movie for this amazing performance alone.

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I was treated to a wonderful Q & A afterwards with Producer: Brian Grazer, Dir/Prod: Tate Taylor (an old friend)m and the man himself, Chadwick Boseman, who btw received a standing ovation from the audience.. I love hearing the thought process, and time frames (10yrs) that it took for this movie to get made.  They started it with James Brown himself, and after he passed it was dead in the water so to speak, luckily enough, Mick Jagger obtained the music rights to his catalog and the rest as they say.. is this movie! 😀

Grade: C+ – for the movie itself  B+ for the performance of Chad Boseman

Grading scale: A = Oscarworthy; B = Above Average – must see; C = Average – should see; D = Don’t waste your time or money; F = Yeah, no don’t see the movie.  (+ or -) give it a bit up or down