After serving in Afghanistan, Alicia West (Naomie Harris, "Moonlight") has returned home to New Orleans where she is now a rookie cop. While she isn’t surprised for being ‘stopped while jogging black’ by white police officers, she is taken aback at the hostile reception she’s given when running into her former best friend Missy (newcomer Nafessa Williams), now part of the Kingston Crew run by Darius Tureau (Mike Colter, TV's 'Marvel's Luke Cage'). When she captures corrupt cop Terry Malone (Frank Grillo, "End of Watch") executing Darius’s nephew Zero on her body cam, she finds herself hunted not only by her fellow cops, but by the entire community which has been told she was the killer. Alicia is learning that in the Ninth Ward, it is impossible to be “Black & Blue.”
Writer Peter A. Dowling’s ("Flightplan") action thriller offers popcorn thrills, but it fails to delve into the titular issue. Alicia is the lone ‘good guy’ here, both men purportedly on her side – partner Kevin Jennings (Reid Scott, HBO's 'Veep') and convenience store clerk Milo 'Mouse' Jackson (the "Fast & Furious" franchise's Tyrese Gibson) – initially too cowardly to take a stand. Everyone else is evil, at least until some late breaking changes of heart which fail to address basics like criminality and community detriment. Director Deon Taylor ("The Intruder") has fashioned an action thrill ride, a ‘ticking clock’ video game of a movie that finds his heroine navigating a dangerous maze, but he hasn’t done anything to nuance “Black & Blue’s” black and white outlook.
Alicia seems comfortable with her white partner, although it is difficult for her to ignore his comments about not responding to calls in the Ninth but expecting its businesses to comp him his coffee (she leaves a $20 tip, which Mouse takes note of). At the end of their shift he groans when he’s asked to do a double, having been looking forward to a planned date night with his wife, so Alicia graciously takes it. The black senior officer she’s paired with, Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), oddly seems none too happy about it. Hours later Alicia questions why he’s responding to a call taken over his cell phone but stays in the car outside a warehouse as ordered. But when she hears shots fired, she enters – just in time to see Zero executed by Malone as Brown stands by. Spying her, Malone’s partner Smitty (Brian Knapp) charges at her, firing his weapon.
Injured and out on the street, Alicia is foiled at every turn, Malone cutting off the dispatcher with one story as he spreads the word to stop her on another channel. She takes refuge with a reluctant Mouse. Malone informs Darius, who’s been cutting him on his drug deals, that his nephew has been shot by a rookie cop and Alicia’s picture goes viral.
While the film works as a suspense actioner as Alicia plots to get her evidence uploaded at police HQ, it is difficult to ignore omissions of convenience. Characters fail to provide information that would help their situation or take action at crucial moments, not once, but repeatedly. The film’s climax is over the top, seemingly an entire American city’s police force, complete with riot gear, out to capture one of their own (and a rookie to boot!). Harris gives this her all and she’s easy to root for, but hers is a fine instrument in service to a blunt object.
Robin did not see this film.
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