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Wednesday, March 22, 2006

16 Blocks

16 Blocks is about 15 ½ more than I think I could stand to go with Mos Def (The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy; The Woodsman), who plays Eddie Bunker, an unfortunate snitch on his way to testify before a Grand Jury about corruption within the New York City police department. Oh, Eddie, aka Mos Def, is a nice enough guy for an armed robber and drug dealer, but it’s his voice that would drive me over the brink. I’ve heard squirrels caught in a fan belt of a truck that squealed with more melody than Eddie’s voice, which, unfortunately never ceases either. Austin, who is the commander-in-chief at the Essex Cinemas when the Chapmans aren’t working assured me that Mos doesn’t really sound like he does in the movie. I’m glad for his sake that this is the case because I can’t imagine a hip hop star that would still be alive if the boyz in the hood had to listen to the “Eddie-voice” all day.

Assigned to deliver Eddie to the Grand Jury is Jack Moseley, played by Bruce Willis, who has never looked more rumpled and wizened by the world. He drinks Canadian Club at 8:00 am and has the worst personal attitude this side of a grizzly bear poked with a sharp stick. The last thing he wants to do is take a motor-mouthed kid downtown when he’s already worked all night. Without paying any attention to whom Eddie is or what his story is about, Jack takes the chipper chatterer into his car and begins the slow journey through morning traffic in Manhattan.

Barely a few blocks along their way, unfortunately, things turn ugly as a hit man makes an attempt on Eddie’s life while Jack has left him locked in the car as he goes off to the neighborhood liquor store. Hey! We’re talking classy cop here, you know. So begins a very long trip downtown once Jack and Eddie escape the barrage of bullets aimed at them.

From here the film is basically a 90 minute action adventure within the streets and alleys of the City as Jack and Eddie try to avoid getting killed by what appears to be an army of men determined to kill Eddie and Jack if necessary. Worse yet, Jack realizes that the man behind the operation is his former partner of 20 years, Frank Nugent, perfectly played by David Morse (Dreamer: Inspired by a True Story). Frank is a “bad cop” as are the others out to silence Eddie and Jack quickly learns that Eddie is more than just another witness. He is the key to blowing the lid off the criminal doings of a whole brotherhood of the boys in blue.

Poor Jack. He has a dilemma that is enough to (albeit briefly perhaps) awaken him from his alcoholic haze and face a reality he would rather stay buried. Does he surrender the prisoner to his friends at let them kill him or does he turn his back on his comrades on the force and do the just thing? Naturally we, the audience, know the answer long before he does. Of course Jack/Willis is going to do the good thing. He’s Bruce Willis after all.

Much gun play and even a tip of the hat to Speed ensues with Jack hijacking s bus to get his witness to court within the two hour time limit before the Grand Jury is disbanded.

The movie does have one surprise up its’ sleeve that Director Richard Donner saves until the last few minutes of the story. This sudden surprise is hardly as drop-dead jaw-dropping as the twist in Willis’ movie The Sixth Sense, but it does take the audience by surprise and makes the entire ordeal both Eddie and Jack have gone through take on a different tone.

I can’t say this is a movie I personally enjoyed, but that is because it seemed to be just another take
on Die Hard 3, Mercury Rising, or Hostage. Willis has ceased being an actor and is now an automaton, which turns in the same character over and over. He just gets more exhausted and wrinkled with time, but other than that everything about his performance is the same. Frankly, eating fresh popcorn from the concession stand at the Essex Cinemas is a comforting distraction when watching the stale reminder of what a fun actor Willis used to be. The only thing new he brings to this role is a distracting hairpiece that looks like the “landing strip” on a bikini-waxed twenty year old. There are a few supporting players who also seem to be sporting some obvious hairpieces and faux moustaches and David Morse has an odd bit of chin hair of his own that makes him look like a pissed-off Amish farmer. I found this little quirk the biggest amusement in an otherwise humorless movie. Perhaps Donner should have called his flick Fun with Facial Hair and put a different soundtrack to the action. He could have had a terrific comedy that way.

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