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16 Blocks
UKScreen Rating:

16 Blocks – Review

WHAT’S IT ABOUT?

One line of dialogue pretty well sums up the plot, as a young lieutenant hands a file to an ageing, alcoholic cop, Jack (Willis): “You have 118 minutes to get a little haemorrhoid 16 blocks” – the haemorrhoid in question is small-time criminal Eddie (Def), who’s negotiated his release from jail in turn for giving evidence to a Grand Jury.
Ordinarily, in Manhattan, you could walk sixteen blocks in a little over quarter of an hour, so it should be an easy job, right?
Of course not – this is a high-concept Hollywood movie.
As you’d probably imagine, Eddie’s evidence is sure to rub some influential people up the wrong way, and they’re going to do all they can to stop him testifying.
So, can Jack pull himself together and learn to care about this irritating loser enough to – for once – actually do the right thing and get the job done?

WHAT’S IT LIKE?

From the pitch and the trailer, you might think you’d be getting a fast and furious high concept thriller – it’s Bruce Willis, after all. But this is an ageing Bruce Willis, playing an ageing cop – he has a gammy leg, for goodness sake – this guy isn’t running anywhere.
The film’s full of the right people doing the wrong things – both practically and ethically. If you’re trying to get sixteen blocks, is clambering up to the roof a good idea?
Regrettably, the only way Jack and Eddie can inch their way across downtown Manhattan is thanks to a series of contrived clichés and coincidences – people just keep turning up exactly when and where needed, to ensure that the plot can trundle along – it’s as if the bad guys keep a copy of the script on them, so that they know where to head next. And when our two protagonists are separated on a busy New York street, the lame loser of a cop inexplicably stumbles across his charge with almost no trouble at all.
And its attempt to give depth to its characters is almost laughable – when you find out what secrets are guarded in Eddie’s private journal, you’ll want to hit him over the head with it and scream “stop wasting our time!”
Eddie is irritating – he’s meant to be – but this guy is so irritating, you want to jump out of your seat and rip a hole in the screen where his face should be. You kind of wish one of the bad guys would land a bullet in his head and we could all be done with his mindless, nasal whining.
And Willis’s character is so much of a loser, it’s tough to root for him too. His recent role of an ageing loser of a cop in Sin City was far more satisfying on so many levels.
Richard Donner has handled enough top-notch films (Superman and Lethal Weapon franchises) for us to expect more from him, but this is just too plodding to be tense and too formulaic to be exciting.
It’s a shame this film wasn’t about travelling 118 blocks in 16 minutes – it would’ve been a more interesting journey and over much more quickly.

Opens nationwide 28st April 2006

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