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16 Blocks Review

16 Blocks: The most cliché movie…ever?


By Zach Shevich

            As the transition between bad studio films being released in the slow box-office months of January and February, and the big- budget block busters that studious release in the big-money months of May to July, there is a whole heap of average movies. 16 Blocks fits into this category of films perfectly. An action/crime thriller from director Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon 1-4, The Goonies), 16 Blocks is a detective’s struggle to bring a prisoner from the police’s custody to the courtroom where he must serve as a witness, sixteen blocks away (hey! that’s where they get the title from). As easy as this task may seem, it wouldn’t be Hollywood if there weren’t more under the surface. Only a couple blocks into their journey, the policeman and prisoner are being tracked by a gang of bad men who for one reason or another don’t want the prisoner to get his chance to testify in court. To delve into the plot any further would spoil only the first of many twists, but one might guess that it has a lot to do with corruption. In fact, one may be able to guess a lot of these plot turns, as they are nothing new and nothing special. However, 16 Blocks, predictability and all, provides good entertainment.

            One of the major flaws of the film is its tendency to do just about everything it can in the most unoriginal way possible. If anything, 16 Blocks is a nice self-confidence booster as its plot turns are so easy to spot that any half-awake movie-goer can make his or herself feel smarter by spotting the next thing coming in the film. And as if the movie isn’t routine enough, it manages to go out of its way to be over-the-top in its hopes to thrill the audience with camera tricks; the type of tricks that make the motion picture much easier to follow if the viewer would only listen to the audio rather than watch the visual. These dumb tricks include one man pulling out a gun while another man off-screen shoots him. Worst of all, 16 Blocks also uses the hidden tape recorder trick, a staple in crime films. While these tricks do not necessarily ruin the movie, they make it more predictable and just like every other action film ever made. One begins to wonder if screenwriter Richard Wenk simply watched a whole heap of action films as his research for this script. Excessiveness aside, 16 Blocks is still a fun action/thriller.

            What does save 16 Blocks and makes it above average is the phenomenal acting from its two leads Bruce Willis and Mos Def. Bruce Willis plays semi-retired detective Jack Mosley, an over-the-hill alcoholic who believes that, “life’s too long.” And while Willis is great, it’s Mos Def, in his supporting roll as the convict Eddie Bunker, who steals the show. Finding a character that is lovable but has a hidden side, Mos Def’s performance is evidence of a possible future Oscar-caliber actor. And while it would be going (way) too far to say that he should get a nomination for 16 Blocks, it is nice that in a world over-populated with white actors that Mos Def may eventually join the likes of Will Smith, Don Cheadle, and Terrance Howard in the coming years as black actors with potential to be strong Oscar contenders for years to come. The strong acting performances help to keep 16 Blocks entertaining despite its flaws.

            16 Blocks, despite its faults, manages to be funny and fun, albeit it’s not fresh. The entire cast is strong, especially Mos Def who with a few more quality performance like this one and the one he delivered in Something the Lord Made will get the respect he deserves. And while 16 Blocks, by no means is a great film, it is good enough for the slow early months of the year. It’s a fun thrill ride clichés and all. 16 Blocks gets 6.5 out of 10.

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