21 Bridges (2019) never crosses into excellent territory but is engaging despite the feeling that something is missing

21 Bridges (2019) biggest failure is in the title and trailers for this movie, which made the shutting down of Manhattan sound like it would be tremendously important to the plot, allowing this film to stand out against the multitude of manhunt movies that exist. Instead, the moments shown in the trailer get a simplistic “You’ve got till 5 am” response, and the island is shut down. There isn’t a cool process sequence that shows how difficult it could be, New York doesn’t rise up in response to the shutting down, and it ultimately just feels like a simple conceit needed for the story to work. At the same time, the movie is engaging, the performances are solid, and the story is straightforward, predictable, yet functional. 

Andre Davis (Chadwick Boseman) is a police officer driven by his sense of justice, and his Batman-esque adherence to his love of law. After several fellow officers are gunned down in a drug heist gone wrong, Andre shuts down Manhattan while on the hunt for Michael (Stephan James) and Ray (Taylor Kitsch), who found themselves in over their heads – but with the skills needed to get the job done. 

Chadwick Boseman stars in 21 Bridges

Boseman and James have both proven themselves to be tremendously talented. 21 Bridges allows them to showcase their talents again, and it is one of the reasons the film is so instantly engaging. I felt for both of the characters throughout the film. Michael has clearly chosen a dark path, but the film allows him to earn some empathy. In fact, most of the characters are relatable and earn some level of compassion for the audience, making the stakes of the film really matter. Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) lost several of his officers. Narcotics officer Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) has a daughter at home, and the situation makes her understandably nervous about her role in the manhunt. The least sympathetic character in the film has to be Ray – but even he has a few moments that allow some of the humanity to shine through. 

21 Bridges moves along at a solid pace, helping to keep the momentum going. There is something always going on, and the story is very compelling – even if slightly unoriginal. That does make it feel a little perfunctory as a film, though.  Director Brian Kirk and writers Adam Mervis and Matthew Michael Carnahan don’t use this story to really say anything original, either. There is a message and a few ideas that are discussed, but ultimately it just felt like a familiar tale with new faces. 

Luckily, there have been far worse action movies than this one, and many of those don’t get the dramatic performances from their cast that this one did. I enjoyed 21 Bridges enough to be satisfied that Regal and Lionsgate will be giving me a digital copy of this for completing their 3 movies set up…but I’m most excited to add Hustlers (2019) to my digital collection. 21 Bridges earns a Decent Watch rating. 

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