Bruce Willis has hair! But it's grey. This is because Bruce Willis is OLD. Old and grey and drunk. And fat! Well, Hollywood Fat, in that he can still see his toes, just not his abs...
The first 15 minutes of 16 Blocks has Willis at his most trying; shuffling and puffing and doing everything bar flashing his colostomy bag at the camera in a bid to convince us, "HEY, I MAY BE A NEW YORK COP BUT I AM NOT JOHN McCLANE, ALL RIGHT?" All right. Then he settles down into, you know, kind of John McClane and you start to like him again.
Mos Def gives a similarly yo-yo-ing performance, affecting a whiny nasal drawl that doesn't quite sabotage his natural charisma. Perhaps he felt he just had to deliver something distinctive, since the script only gives one-and-a-half dimensions to what is potentially the most interesting character. There's never much doubt who's going to do the right thing on these mean streets.
The problem with 16 Blocks is indecision. It's a movie in mid-life crisis; neither the wham-bam actioner the director has proved adept at, nor the serious character piece it sometimes strains to be. It's Richard Donner does Sidney Lumet, with the odd couple salt'n'pepper pairing recalling Lethal Weapon (without the laughs), while the subject matter is very Serpico (without the credibility). The action sequences are adept and the leads likeable and as a join-the-dots city chase the film passes the time while you pass the popcorn (and, let's face it, some of us will happily watch Willis in anything).
But the movie's split personality is finally sundered by David Morse - typically committed as a pragmatic pro-cum-Devil incarnate. His real emotion shows up how empty this halfway house is. At one point Willis' broken-down rozzer mutters: "Days change, seasons change, people don't." It's a lesson director and star might be learning the hard way.
Bruce's MOR police thriller has the star on jowly, scowly form and Donner heading for retirement. Enjoy it, for old time's sake.
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