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Posts Tagged ‘Chadwick Boseman’

Chadwick Boseman, Sienna Miller

“21 BRIDGES” My rating: C (Opens wide on Nov. 22)

99 minutes | MPAA rating: R

To the extent that it delivers a series of adrenaline-stoked action sequences and a ridiculously high body count, Brian Kirk’s “21 Bridges” should satisfy audiences looking for a thrill.

And that’s about it.

Not even the presence of the versatile  Chadwick Baseman (whose roles range from Jackie Robinson and Thurgood Marshall to the Black Panther) and the eerily transforming Sienna Miller can elevate this piece above “mehhh” status.

The first half of Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan’s screenplay (and by far the better half) is a manhunt told from the points of view of two couples — a pair of crooks on the run  and a pair of cops on their heels.

In the opening sequence a couple of well-armed thugs, Michael and Ray (Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch) hit a posh New York City restaurant late at night after closing.  They’ve been told there’s 30 kilos of cocaine hidden in the eatery; they are perplexed to discover it’s more like 300 kilos, way more than they can carry out.

To further complicate matters,  a bunch of cops show up.  Maybe they are looking for a late-night snack.  In any case, there’s a gun battle that leaves eight of New York’s finest headed to the morgue.  The perps take off running.

Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch

The filmmakers at least try for plausible back stories.  Michael and Ray are ex-military; Ray is by far the more ruthless of the two, but Kitsch gives him just enough charisma to keep us interested.  Michael basically finds himself in over his head.

On the other side of the coin are detectives Andre Davis (Boseman) and Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller, almost unrecognizable with no makeup), thrown together to manage a city-wide manhunt for the cop killers.

Again, an attempt is made to provide some depth to the characters.  Davis is himself the son of a slain cop who regularly faces Internal Affairs hearings for his marksmanship (eight fatal shootings in as many years); he maintains he never fires first. Burns is a single mom with a Brooklyn accent.

To keep the crooks from leaving town, Davis imposes a 1 a.m.-to-sunup closure of all 21 bridges leading into and out of Manhattan Island.  He’s got five hours before the quarantine will be lifted and rush hour begins. (Thus the movie’s title…though once the roads are blocked the film never returns to them. Another title would have been “21 Body Bags.”)

An already perplexing case is made even more unmanageable by the dead officers’ revenge-minded colleagues (J.K. Simmons plays their precinct chief). These cops have a bad habit of killing witnesses before Davis can interview them.

In the film’s second half it dawns on Davis that there may be more to this case than meets the eye…we’re talking corruption in high places. (And you can only imagine the paperwork demanded of our hero after personally killing a dozen people.)

“21 Bridges” has been well made.  The acting is OK. The shots of NYC at night are sometimes eerily atmospheric.

On the whole, though, the film is more blah than bad. Instantly forgettable.

| Robert W. Butler

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“BLACK PANTHER” My rating: B- 

134 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13

Some films are noteworthy for their artistry.

Others earn a niche in the history books for their cultural footprint, for staking out sociological territory at just the right moment, for tapping into the zeitgeist.

Ryan Coogler’s “Black Panther” leans heavily toward the second category.

Narratively this is a  typical Marvel release, a superhero origin story that, as all Marvel movies must, ends with an extended fx-heavy smackdown.

But  there’s far more to “Black Panther.”  The first Marvel movie starring a black superhero, featuring a predominantly black cast and backed by with a heavy presence of African Americans in key creative roles,  the picture arrives at a moment when America’s oppressed groups — galvanized by an onslaught of alt-right rhetoric and rampant assholism — are asserting themselves with renewed determination.

Last year  “Wonder Woman” introduced a whole slew of female issues into the superhero universe; in retrospect it feels like a calling card for the “Me Too” movement.

“Panther” does pretty much the same thing for African Americans.  Think of it as Black Pride on steroids.

Based on the character created in 1966 by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, the yarn introduces us to Wakanda, an African nation that to all outward appearances is pretty much your Third World backwater.

Ha.

Thanks to the nation’s supply of vibranium — an element brought to Earth in a meteor — Wakandans live in a high-tech paradise.  The clothing, artwork and architecture may be right out of “The Lion King,”  but behind the scenes vibranium provides unlimited energy, healing power and weaponry. Invisible aircraft, even.

What’s more, in conjunction with tribal spirituality, vibranium imparts to the Wakandan king  superhuman abilities, transforming him into the all-but-invincible Black Panther.

All these wonders are hidden behind a shimmering energy wall which protects Wakanda from the outside world  (also the case with the Amazonian homeland in “Wonder Woman”). By keeping to themselves the prosperous and happy Wakandans ensure that  vibranium never falls into the hands of weapons-crazy Westerners who, it’s obvious, are their inferiors in just about every category worth measuring. (more…)

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