Transport a criminal from his cell to a court appearance – simple enough, right? That’s what Jack Mosley (Bruce Willis), an alcoholic and aging cop, has to do. But, with Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) in his backseat, Mosley gets much more than he bargained for. As it turns out, Bunker is about to testify against some corrupt cops that Jack just happens to know. Now they all want Eddie dead, but Jack is not about to stand by and let that happen, even with a bum leg.
“16 Blocks,” directed by Richard Donner, is fairly typical of a crime-drama thriller. Nothing new is presented, but there is enough characterization to satisfy the audience for 105 minutes. Jack’s decision to protect Eddie at first seems to be strictly out of conscience, but as the film progresses we are able to see that Jack and Eddie are not so different after all. Of course, Jack’s alcoholism in the film does not seem to serve much purpose except to establish that his character has a crippling flaw. It might work for another actor, but with Willis at the helm, I think we all know he’ll kick some ass even if he were 80 years old, in a wheelchair and barely breathing. Willis uses the role to show us he can still portray the John McClane type we all know and love. And you know what? That’s just fine by me – as long as he doesn’t actually reprise that role in “Die Hard 4.”
Bunker’s voice in the film is a character in and of itself. Mos Def uses this high-pitched, slightly whiny voice for his portrayal and it doesn’t quite seem to fit the bill. His obnoxious tonality makes him less reliable simply because it sounds as if he’s a little slow. He also spends a good part of the movie running away from Jack, which is clearly the wrong thing to do considering who’s after him. All Eddie initially cares about is getting to court and taking his notebook with him, which is all very well and good if Jack’s ex-partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), wasn’t on his tail. Morse is good fun to watch as the “villain” – aside from the incessant gum chewing – but Jack still has some ideas up his sleeve, like a scheme involving a city bus and several unassuming passengers. The setup is a little ridiculous, considering they could have gotten out of the situation before it escalated, but then that wouldn’t make for a very exciting scene, now would it?
“16 Blocks” is entertaining and chock full of kinetic energy. Donner even ties a nice little moral lesson in at the end. While it may not have ingenious writing, “16 Blocks” still has enough thrills and non-stop action to make it palatable for a lazy afternoon.