Dumb plot, crummy look burn ‘21 Bridges’

Chadwick Boseman plays an NYPD detective in a story of supposedly smart people doing really stupid things.

SHARE Dumb plot, crummy look burn ‘21 Bridges’

Chadwick Boseman and Sienna Miller play NYPD detectives chasing a pair of cop killers in “21 Bridges.”


I’m seriously worried about Lt. Kelly, and I’ll tell you why:

He can no longer count to 10 with both hands. After tonight, he’ll have to stop at eight.

In one of the many, many, MANY shootout scenes in the lurid and sleazy and gratuitously violent and excessively stupid tick-tock cop thriller “21 Bridges,” two fingers on the right hand of Lt. Kelly (a minor character in the story) are blown off by some bad guys.

21 Bridges


STXfilms presents a film directed by Brian Kirk and written by Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan. Rated R (for violence and language throughout). Running time: 99 minutes. Opens Thursday at local theaters.

Cut to the aftermath of the crime scene. Kelly’s hand is bandaged with gauze, as if someone had rushed to the nearest CVS to get first-aid supplies. Kelly’s supervisor, Capt. McKenna (J.K. Simmons), tells him, “Good work Kelly. Get some rest.”

What? GET SOME REST? You’d think after having two fingers blown clean off, Kelly might want to consider a trip to the hospital.

We’ll get into further particulars about why this is one of the worst movies of 2019 in a moment, but we’re not quite done with our man Lt. Kelly. Later in the film, at a locale far away from the aforementioned shooting, Kelly shows up again! There’s blood seeping through the bandage, but he’s still out and about and in remarkably good cheer, given the night he’s had.

The sloppy and ludicrous manner in which Lt. Kelly’s story is handled is representative of the overall terribleness of “21 Bridges,” from a plot with more holes than a box of donuts to myriad clumsily staged shootout and chase sequences to scene after scene after scene in which one individual with a gun engages in heated debate with somebody else with a gun.

And yes, in one of those scenes, a villain has a gun aimed at the head of the hero’s partner, who keeps saying, “Take the shot!” even as the hero tries to talk some sense into the villain.


Despite the A-list cast and the whiz-bang Russo brothers of “Avengers” fame among the producers, “21 Bridges” plays like a 21st century version of a third-rate vehicle for Steven Seagal. It has a grimy, cheap, crummy look, and a plot that keeps on painting itself into a corner from which there is no logical or intelligent escape.

Chadwick Boseman’s NYPD detective Andre Davis is a take-no-prisoners antihero whose bad guy body count would have Dirty Harry mumbling with envy.

When Andre was 13, his policeman father was killed on the job — but only after taking out two of the three assailants that went after him. Some two decades later, Andre is now a cop (he says it’s in the family DNA) who has killed more than a half-dozen perps in various shootings and is a fixture at Internal Affairs hearings. (You’d think the New York media would’ve gotten wind of a detective who is the son of slain cop and has been involved in roughly one fatal shooting per year during his career. Nah.)

Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch play Michael and Ray, respectively, a pair of slow-witted thugs who bust into a trendy Brooklyn restaurant after hours to steal a stash of uncut coke hidden away in the freezer. (Those scars courtesy of the makeup artists don’t fool us, Taylor. You still look like the heartthrob Tim Riggins of “Friday Night Lights” glory.)

There’s WAY more coke than these two dunderheads expected to find. Also, there are four cops knocking on the front door, and a few more on the way.

Michael and Ray shoot their way out, leaving behind eight dead cops and one dead civilian. Andre is called to the scene and meets Capt. McKenna, who tells Andre all eight of the cops served with him in the 85th precinct. They had an aggregate total of six children — three of whom are McKenna’s godchildren.

Capt. McKenna makes it clear he doesn’t want Andre to catch the killers. He wants Andre to end them, tonight. No questions asked.

With Sherlock Holmes-level acuity, Andre quickly deduces there were two shooters who wound up with far more coke than they expected — and the only place they’d be able to quickly unload such a haul would be Manhattan.

Andre proposes the city close down all 21 bridges offering escape from the island of Manhattan, and his wish his granted — but he’s given only a few hours to track down the killers.

An almost unrecognizable Sienna Miller plays hotshot narcotics detective Frankie Burns, who becomes Andre’s ad hoc partner for the night. (Apparently Frankie’s parents weren’t big fans of “MASH,” given they’ve named their daughter after Frank Burns, the weasel-villain character from the movie and TV show.) Frankie’s a real spitfire who keeps telling Andre he damn well better kill those two fugitive thugs on sight, because she’s a single mom, “and I don’t want my daughter growing up without a mother.”

Um, OK.

“21 Bridges” is filled with generic overhead drone shots of Manhattan as transitions to cop-criminal standoffs on the streets of Manhattan, which never look like the streets of Manhattan because this movie was filmed in Philadelphia.

Time and again, supposedly smart characters do really stupid things, just so the plot can continue to stumble along. (One quick example: Andre suspects someone is a dirty double-crosser. He pretends his phone can’t get service. He asks the other person if he can borrow their phone. The idiot instantly hands over the phone — complete with an incriminating call history.)

Everything about “21 Bridges,” from the curiously inconsistent depictions of Manhattan life in the hours between midnight and dawn, to the cartoonishly uninformed takes on local media news coverage, to the laughingly simplistic crime scene sequences to the multiple insulting portrayals of New York City’s Finest is pure counterfeit.

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