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"16 Blocks"

Directed by Richard Donner.
Written by Richard Wenk.
Starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, and David Morse.
Release Year:  2006
Review Date:  2/25/06


I'm starting to fall in love with the freebie--especially if the film attached is pretty good.

That's the case with the new thriller "16 Blocks", directed by Richard Donner of "Lethal Weapon" series fame.  Bruce Willis stars as Jack Mosley, a 20-year vet of the NYPD (and, naturally, full-fledged alcoholic) that is heading home following a shift when his lieutenant gives him a gopher task: transport a witness (Mos Def) to his grand jury hearing a few blocks away before 10 AM.  It's already a little after 8, so Jack scoops up the witness and starts driving to the courthouse...when everything goes wrong.  The problems arise because Jack's old partner, Frank (David Morse), needs for this witness to NOT make it to that courthouse on time because that witness has vital information about Frank and a few of his cop buddies, all of whom are dirty.

I like these kinds of films, thrillers that (sort of) take place in real time, much like I love how the TV show "24" takes place in real time.  As such, it's fun to watch Jack try to get the witness the 16 blocks necessary to reach the court house, by any means necessary.  Donner, 75 years old and counting, displays some of the crackle that made his "Superman" films and the "Lethal Weapon" flicks so good, by setting up a tense situation with flawed heroes:  Willis has played this character many times, but by giving his character a bum leg and the alcohol problems, Donner makes his lead look pretty much awful all movie long, which works since as the witness, Mos Def gets to make fun of how shitty he looks all movie long.  Mos Def has always been well-received as an actor and even though his character is borderline Rob-Schneider-in-"Judge Dredd" annoying, the acting is solid and the constant jabbering is sometimes pretty funny.

I liked the Morse character the most, though; sometimes, these thrillers have a tendency to make one of the bad guys borderline insane, when in fact Morse's character Frank is only asked to go about his business, occasionally showing flashes of anger but mostly keeping it together in order to catch Jack, given that if he doesn't, he's going to jail for a long time.  I always like Morse in his films; he is usually not the bad guy (although he assisted some in maybe his most famous big part, as Ed Harris's chief lieutenant in "The Rock") and I like how Morse handled his part in "16 Blocks."  Cool, calm, collected.

I would imagine that most folks in my packed-house audience did not like the ending to this film; after being a crafty film for the first 90 minutes or so, the film didn't finish strong to the hoop.  But, the mix of thriller, action, and comedy is reminiscent of what made the first "Lethal Weapon" film so good and it makes this one worth seeing on the big screen.  You likey, no?

Rating:  $9.50 Show


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Bellview Rating System:

"Opening Weekend":  This is the highest rating a movie can receive.  Reserved for movies that exhibit the highest level of acting, plot, character development, setting...or Salma Hayek.  Not necessarily in that order. 

"$X.XX Show":  This price changes each year due to the inflation of movie prices; currently, it is the $9.50 Show.  While not technically perfect, this is a movie that will still entertain you at a very high level.  "Undercover Brother" falls into this category; it's no "Casablanca", but you'll have a great time watching.  The $9.50 Show won't win any Oscars, but you'll be quoting lines from the thing for ages (see "Office Space"). 

"Matinee":  An average movie that merits no more than a $6.50 viewing at your local theater.  Seeing it for less than $9.50 will make you feel a lot better about yourself.  A movie like "Blue Crush" fits this category; you leave the theater saying "That wasn't too, did you see that Lakers game last night?" 

"Rental":  This rating indicates a movie that you see in the previews and say to your friend, "I'll be sure to miss that one."  Mostly forgettable, you couldn't lose too much by going to Hollywood Video and paying $3 to watch it with your sig other, but you would only do that if the video store was out of copies of "Ronin."  If you can, see this movie for free.  This is what your TV Guide would give "one and a half stars." 

"Hard Vice":  This rating is the bottom of the barrel.  A movie that only six other human beings have witnessed, this is the worst movie I have ever seen.  A Shannon Tweed "thriller," it is so bad as to be funny during almost every one of its 84 minutes, and includes the worst ending ever put into a movie.  Marginally worse than "Cabin Boy", "The Avengers" or "Leonard, Part 6", this rating means that you should avoid this movie at all costs, or no costs, EVEN IF YOU CAN SEE IT FOR FREE!  (Warning:  strong profanity will be used in all reviews of "Hard Vice"-rated movies.)

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All material by Justin Elliot Bell for SMR/Bellview/ except where noted
1999-2009 Justin Elliot Bell This site was last updated 01/08/09