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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
[] Buy posters from this movie
by brianorndorf

"Tight and well crafted"
4 stars

After the abysmal “Timeline,” director Richard Donner returns to fine form with the thriller, “16 Blocks.” There’s great attention to character detail in the film, and the script is performed well by Bruce Willis and Mos Def. It might take a dip in pace in the second half, but here’s the rare film that genuinely gets the audience to care about the characters, making the tight suspense sequences even more effective.

Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) is a small time felon awaiting transportation to a grand jury to testify about New York City's most crooked cops. Detective Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis) is the alcoholic, overweight, bum-legged cop assigned to take him 16 blocks to the courthouse. As soon as it begins, their journey erupts into chaos, with a small band of rogue officers (led by David Morse) chasing them throughout the city, giving Jack and Eddie little breathing room as they both try to do the right thing for the first time in their lives.

Three years ago, I thought the dream was over. "Timeline" was director Richard Donner's last picture, and it was an uncharacteristic disaster. After building a career with such classics as "Superman," "Lethal Weapon," "Ladyhawke," and "The Omen," Donner put in a half-hearted effort with the medieval adventure, in a production that felt doomed from the start. Thank goodness the fear of Donner's exhausted capabilities can now be laid to rest. His new thriller, "16 Blocks" is a cozy, spry little humdinger, returning the filmmaker to material that nurtures his confidence, and offers a limited location he can get creative with.

Initially, "16 Blocks" feels like a mash-up version of "Lethal Weapon" and the third "Die Hard" picture in the way that it incorporates both snappy dialog and tight, city-intensive action. With loads of hand-held camera-work and a fixation with intricately staged standoffs, the film has all the sizzling rhythms of an action movie. The opening gunshot fired is almost worth the price of admission alone in the way Donner depicts the blunt shock of violence mixed with Mosley's tipsy realization that trouble is about to rain down from all sides. "16 Blocks" gets the juices flowing quickly as the duo weave their way through Chinese laundromats, over rooftops, and on the sticky summer sidewalks, threatening a fever pitch that promises the film will get more explosive and gangbusters as it heads toward a resolution.

But that doesn't happen. Instead, "16 Blocks" gets smaller.

The screenplay by Richard Wenk ("Just the Ticket") is one that favors character interaction and places all its chips on the wager that the chemistry between Mosley and Bunker will be all the film needs for fuel for the hushed second half. It's a smart bet. Wonderfully performed by Bruce Willis and Mos Def, Donner labors mightily to get this odd couple underneath the viewer's skin, to feel compassion for their noble intentions and, for Bunker, his lofty birthday cake baking dreams. The actors skillfully work their characters' weaknesses, especially Willis, who gives Mosley silently tortured shadings to acknowledge the character's deteriorating health for most of the film. Mosley is not a cardboard action hero, but a man in over his head, out of breath, and aching for a drink. It's excellent work from Willis.

The quality of Mos Def's performance is a real surprise, along with being the film's biggest potential vulnerability. Affecting a very specific and bizarre speech pattern for Bunker, Def introduces an initial creeping fear that comes when an actor has made a horrible mistake. The panic soon subsides when it's clear that Wenk and Def are able to get Bunker past his horrible voice, and shove him into a three-dimensional character. It takes some time, but Def sneaks up on you with his unusual acting choices. It's only a shame that Def's ambitions didn't rub off on David Morse, who gives a very conventional reading of his role, despite the interesting efforts Wenk and Donner make to tie the character in close to Mosley.

"16 Blocks" makes a lot of noise during its running time, but it ends on notes of character and compassion over pyrotechnics and disorder. It takes the sure hand of a veteran like Donner to maintain stability like this, especially after witnessing the rabid visual overcompensation of last week's "Running Scared," which makes "Blocks" all the more engaging.

This is a classically made New York character thriller, and if there are still fans out there of composed, attentive filmmaking, "16 Blocks" is your best bet for entertainment this month.

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originally posted: 03/03/06 15:55:21
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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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