June 11, 2006

DVD Review: 16 Blocks

Richard Donner returned to the director's chair for the first time since 2003's disappointing Timeline with this Bruce Willis vehicle. 16 Blocks is an entertaining mismatched buddy film that, while not breaking new ground, I found to be immensely entertaining. Seeing the film again on DVD, I found myself enjoying it even more.

16 Blocks tells a straight forward story. Willis plays a troubled drunk of a detective named Jack Mosley who is given the assignment of transporting a petty criminal, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) from his cell to the courthouse, you guessed it, 16 blocks away. The problem lies in that journey, as there are forces out to keep Eddie from making is appointed meeting. The action kicks up when Jack stops on the way to pick up some booze to get him though the morning, while inside, a gunman shows up to relieve Eddie of his life. From there, we learn that there are a number of dirty cops who don't want to see Eddie make to court on time.

Now the race really gets underway. The movie is told in nearly real time as they evade dirty detectives out to kill them both. As soon as Jack decided to help Eddie, he signed his own death warrant in the eyes of his former partner, Frank Nugent (David Morse), and his team.

While the chase and the action are exciting, and what initially caused my enjoyment during its theatrical run, watching it again brought something else to the table. The relationship that develops between Willis and Def is very good, it really grows and develops over the course of the movie as they change each other. The two are a complete mismatch, but they play off each other and learn new aspects of life as their respective layers are peeled away and they becomne more vulnerable to the opposing personality. Mosley looks at Eddie and sees a lowlife, someone not deserving his respect, while Eddie sees Mosley as someone who is not cut out for doing the transport job. It is great seeing them see the signs and change, which are a couple of themes explored.

Bruce Willis does a fine job playing the rundown detective turning a corner in his life. He has made something of a cottage industry of playing these cop roles, and while they are not the same roles, they are related and have portrayed a natural progression in his career. Where he used to be the straight up hero, or reluctant hero, now his characters are reflecting his increasing age, not that he is getting old, but the characters tend to be a little further in their careers and haver more flaws. Willis is adapting very nicely. Playing opposite him is rapper turned actor Mos Def, someone I have only seen a couple of times but has proven to be a very good actor. He has very good presence onscreen and does a good job of creating a character. Not to be outdone, we have David Morse on the other side our heroic duo. Morse brings a calm menace to Frank Nugent, cold, calculating and focused on what has to be done.

This is not a big blockbuster kind of movie, it is a fun little action film that plays to the strengths of those involved, and it builds to an ending that I found to be really emotionally resonant and completely satisfying.

Video. The film is presented in its original aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and is anamorphically enhanced. This disk looks very nice, detail is sharp, colors accurate, deep blacks, overall this is a very nice looking disk.

Audio. Complimenting the nice video is a very good 5.1 Dolby Digital audio track. At times the music overtook the dialog, but to any really point of distraction.

Extras. Lacking in this department is this disk.
-Deleted Scenes with Director/Screenwriter Commentary. This runs about 20 minutes combined between the clips and the introductions. This is not put together all that well. I like the idea of the intros, although those giving the intros were acting a little strange, but sometimes it extended to having a little video commentary during the clips which I found to be very distracting when all I really wanted to see was the scene.
-Alternate Ending. This can be viewed separately or integrated into the film via seemless branching. I don't want to give it away, but it does have a bit of a punch to it.

Bottomline. This is a very entertaining actioner from Willis, much like Hostage, both films are fun and came across as pleasantly surprising. Richard Donner makes up for Timeline with this outing. As for the DVD, it looks good, but is a little light in the extras department. I recommend this disk for the quality film it contains.

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