21 Bridges review: "Has a distinct 'seen it all before' vibe"

21 Bridges review
(Image: © STXFilms)

GamesRadar+ Verdict

A generic cop thriller that rumbles along thanks to a quality cast but ultimately offers nothing fresh.

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A New York cop film that feels like a poor man’s fusion of Escape From New York and Serpico, 21 Bridges has a distinct ‘seen it all before’ vibe to it. Chadwick Boseman stars as Andre Davis, an NYPD detective known for hunting down cop killers.

His speciality proves unfortunately handy when two robbers (Stephan James, Taylor Kitsch) raid a high-end wine store that’s actually a front for a massive drug-dealing operation. In the back room is 300 kilos of cocaine – far more than these two chancers were expecting. Before they know it, cops are everywhere, but Kitsch’s expert gunman shoots his way out, slaughtering eight boys in blue.

In comes Boseman’s Davis, with help from J.K. Simmons’ NYPD captain and Sienna Miller’s detective. The plan? Shut down the exits off Manhattan Island, including the 21 bridges, and begin a city-wide manhunt.

It’s a neat gimmick and makes for a catchy title, but director Brian Kirk (Luther, Game Of Thrones) and his screenwriters make little use of this lockdown idea, aside from giving the story a ticking clock – the cops have just hours before the bridges are re-opened. Instead, we get a way-too-obvious plot development, as Davis discovers there’s more to this crime than first appears.

Sadly, Boseman gets little chance to essay his usual charisma (see Black Panther, Get On Up). Those around him fare better: Simmons and Keith David as the NYPD brass; Kitsch and James as two desperate men in way over their heads; and Miller’s hard-bitten single-parent law-enforcer.

For a while, the narrative gusto of the cops tightening a cordon around their suspects provides excitement and there’s some zingy, slang-heavy dialogue from Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan (brother to director Joe). But the corruption-filled final act fails to elevate the film towards anything profound or even thrilling

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Freelance writer

James Mottram is a freelance film journalist, author of books that dive deep into films like Die Hard and Tenet, and a regular guest on the Total Film podcast. You'll find his writings on GamesRadar+ and Total Film, and in newspapers and magazines from across the world like The Times, The Independent, The i, Metro, The National, Marie Claire, and MindFood.