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Overall Rating

Awesome: 11.11%
Worth A Look44.44%
Average: 26.98%
Pretty Bad: 11.11%
Total Crap: 6.35%

6 reviews, 27 user ratings

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16 Blocks
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by Erik Childress

"Less Tense Than Rush Hour On The Chicago Dan Ryan."
2 stars

16 Blocks has all the makings of a great beat-the-clock thriller. It has the high concept premise that is dutifully explained in the film’s dialogue – “You have 118 minutes to get this guy sixteen blocks.” You have a director in Richard Donner who has had great success in the past crafting exciting action sequences out of miniscule plots and a star in Bruce Willis seemingly entering a face in his career where character is just as interesting as the mayhem he’s surrounded in. Why does the film then just lie there waiting for someone to hit it with the defibulator? Is it an action film, a character study or both wrapped into one of those gimmicky real-time concoctions? We’ll probably never know the answer since the screenplay gives up on itself so many times that the film’s running time can’t even match the 118-minute deadline established for itself.

Willis plays Jack Moseley, a NY cop on his last leg (literally walking with a pronounced limp.) It’s more laziness and boredom on his part since his only motivation on the job, after being called in to do little more than wait at crime scenes, is getting to a bottle. After pulling an all-nighter, Jack is asked to escort high-profile witness and career criminal, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def, creating one of the most annoying characters this side of Jar Jar Binks) up the street to the courthouse so his testimony can be recounted to a grand jury. At 10 AM, the jury convenes and the case will be thrown out. They barely make it two of those sixteen when some hired baddies attempt a hit while Jack callously leaves the witness to go buy some booze. Luckily he puts on his Bruce Willis Aim Face and thwarts the effort.

After hauling it on foot to a nearby bar, the real bad guys reveal themselves. Turns out Jack’s ex-partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), and a cache of dirty cops have no interest in Eddie spilling his guts and try to take him off Jack’s hands. Jack is having none of it though and manages another dues ex machina escape (where a shot is fired but not the one we think; a trend that will continue.) Now with a gaggle of NY’s worst on their tail with a sixth sense in finding them wherever they end up, Jack will do his best in a variety of stationary locations to keep motormouth Eddie alive until ten o’clock.

What’s most frustrating about RichardVampWenk’s screenplay is its inability to block out the biggest question audiences will have watching Jack get into the scrapes that he does. Why, oh why, does he never bother to call for appropriate backup nor inform his brothers-in-blue during a crucial standoff why he’s put himself in the position that he has? Treading around the answers to these questions come very close to spoiler territory. When we are given a crucial piece about Jack’s past, it helps put in perspective why he’d rather be viewed as a hostage taker than a cop under siege but further clouds why he saved Eddie in the first place.

Donner keeps the pacing well enough for awhile but continues getting dragged to a halt while the film makes up its mind what it wants to be. As someone who has expertly worked set pieces into his films, Donner gives himself little room to work even in an area as vast as downtown New York. There’s little-to-no attention to the geography of the characters leaving them little room to do anything but walk through hallways and look confused on busy streets. The film’s centerpiece on a city bus feels like the climax of any number of action entities (particularly with the needless flash-forward at the beginning) but like every other confrontation, its over before it began when the cops shoot out the tires. The subtextual analysis of how “people can change” amounts to little more than Willis getting a shave and a haircut (a la Hostage) and discussions of how some of the greatest musicians overcame hundreds of robberies. No counterpoint is provided for DMX or Suge Knight.

16 Blocks may be one of those rare actioners that just sat in a pile and eventually went into production without the benefit of a rewrite. Surely someone recognizing the borrowed elements of The Gauntlet, Speed, The Negotiator, Nick of Time (and keep going) could have come up with something exciting to distract us from the utter dryness which both the protagonists and antagonists go about their business. The villains are entirely nondescript right up to Morse getting his Few Good Men speech off in a parking garage (“F&@* THE TRUTH!). The efforts at bringing growth to either of our heroes comes in the latest bit of Willis follicle realignment - a shave and a haircut, two bits (a la Hostage). Donner could have put up a large ticking red timer in the top right corner of the screen and the only tension derived would still be waiting for the cigarette burns to appear.

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originally posted: 03/03/06 16:07:51
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User Comments

9/13/17 morris campbell boring 2 me 1 stars
4/16/14 Charles Tatum Excellent pacing and some good performances. 4 stars
11/17/11 Golden J. Williams Jr. A real good thrill ride. Willis and Mos Def fit their characters. Must see both endings!! 5 stars
10/10/10 Dymphna Kahl Can see it over & over, always cry at last scene. Mos Def & Willis excellent. 5 stars
8/30/09 Ry entertaining throughout. very good! 4 stars
8/03/08 The Dork Knight Bruce is great as the burn-out cop. Nicely done 4 stars
3/05/08 ladavies This wasn't half bad. I enjoyed Mos Def. 4 stars
9/11/07 Grayfoxx Not bad. Mos Def can actually act. Really worth watching this action flick. 4 stars
7/19/07 mr.mike got worse as it went along , and refused to end 2 stars
4/18/07 Stevo UK Died on its arse. Great for the geeks who'll watch anything, though. 1 stars
2/02/07 Jennifer I agree, Bruce did great as a burnt out cop, but come on-that story was total crap. Boring! 1 stars
10/27/06 MP Bartley Taut cat and mouse game. Willis, Mos Def and Morse all excellent. 4 stars
8/24/06 Pete Rogers Great portrayals, brilliant treatment of a kind of passion for redemption 5 stars
7/25/06 Indrid Cold Bruce is great as the burnt-out cop, but Mos Def's Dave Chappelle impersonation is annoying 3 stars
7/21/06 Mitchell K. Better than I expected 4 stars
7/18/06 Monday Morning A half-hour worth of story packed into 90 minutes! 3 stars
6/19/06 ES I liked it, I'll recommend it, but I don't have to like the way Mos Def talked in the film 4 stars
5/26/06 Jeff Anderson A great thrill ride with Willis & Def in top, first-rate form. WELCOME BACK RICHARD DONNER! 5 stars
5/18/06 chris f bruce willis may be getting old but he can still do great movies 5 stars
5/06/06 Jane Austen's Enema Best movie I've seen since MEAN GIRLS. Willis and Def should win Oscars. 5 stars
4/01/06 jcjs fun, no brainer, good acting, fine entertainment moves right along, just kick backed Bruce 4 stars
3/14/06 Donny Worth a rent. Bruce is great at these types of movies, even if they are mediocre. 3 stars
3/12/06 Josh Standlee Absolutely incredible! It's always fun to cheer for Bruce! 5 stars
3/11/06 Anthony Feor 16 blocks of non stop talking 3 stars
3/10/06 burton miller fast-paced, excellent dialog, mos def was the shit 4 stars
3/07/06 Elizabeth Quite formulaic and cliche, but Willis is always fun to watch. 3 stars
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  03-Mar-2006 (PG-13)
  DVD: 13-Jun-2006



Directed by
  Richard Donner

Written by
  Richard Wenk

  Bruce Willis
  Mos Def
  David Morse
  Jenna Stern
  Casey Sander
  Cylk Cozart

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