Black and Blue (2019) were in a unique position to tackle some very tough themes. Given the potential multiple meanings of the film’s name alone, I’d gone in expecting this to be a compelling action thriller with a heavy discussion of the Black Lives Matter/Blue Lives Matter debate. While there is definitely some of that built into the film’s protagonist, the movie is more interested in re-hashing tired tropes of the crime genre while being weighed down by bad dialogue. There wasn’t much to latch onto in this film, and it definitely left me wanting.
Alicia West (Naomie Harris) has returned home and joined the New Orleans Police Department. She finds herself at odds with both the boys in blue and the black community of the city. Alicia is harassed during her morning jobs after being profiled by a couple of officers who let her go once they see she’s a “badge” and is soon called an “Uncle Tom” by a known gang member. After she witnesses, a narcotics officer kills three young gang members – capturing it all on her body camera – she has nowhere to turn, and no clue who to trust.
Harris was amazing in Moonlight (2016). However, there is something rather unconvincing about her performance in this film. I never quite latched onto her character or the way she reacted to the things transpiring around her. That is likely more the fault of the writer Peter A. Dowling or director Deon Taylor, as many of the character choices just felt off. That’s true with Milo ‘Mouse’ Jackson (Tyrese Gibson) as well, who continually does things that baffle me – and even Alicia, at points in the film. Tyrese gives a committed performance, but the lines he is given feel flat and unnatural in almost every instance.
Black and Blue does another thing really wrong with the race relations in this film. The leader of the gang that appears to run the city in the movie is named Darius (Mike Colter). He is depicted to be a stereotypical monster of a human being with little regard for rules. Now, he is deeply troubled that his nephew was killed – but his actions show no remorse for his cruelty. In fact, the only characters of color who aren’t depicted as criminals are Alicia and Mouse. Mouse does have a record – but the film implies that was likely a result of police profiling him. To be fair, the police are also depicted as shallow stereotypes of racist cops who are all on powertrips – especially Officer Malone (Frank Grillo) – again, with the exception of Alicia. There is no nuance in this story, despite the fact that it rubs up against a real-world topic but refuses to grapple with any of the difficult conversations which accompany it in any meaningful way.
Black and Blue is just white noise and is easily skippable. I had hoped for something moving like Fruitvale Station, Blindspotting, or The Hate You Give – but instead ended up with a less than stellar crime story. Black and Blue earns the Not a Total Waste of Time rating.