For someone who was born in and lived a large part of his life in a 3rd World country, the idea of police heroes isn’t very appealing. Sure, there have been sacrifices but the poster boy for police in Pakistan is Rao Anwar. The everyday encounters just double down on that reality. Some call it a state-run extortion machine.
So relating to a film which depicts policemen and women as heroes is difficult to grasp. Especially given that 21 Bridges begins with an inquiry about ‘encounter’. It requires a bit of a mental adjustment. Thankfully, Chadwick Boseman as Davis has the screen presence and charisma to pull you right in. “All of them deserved their fate” argues Davis to an ethnically balanced Internal Affairs Committee.
Soon, we move on to a drug robbery gone wrong. Eight NYPD cops are shot to death. This means the start of a manhunt to arrest the killers. Agency politics dictates that Davis and his team (Sienna Miller and J.K. Simmons) have the night to arrest the killers before the Feds get involved. The 1st thing they do, lock down the city by shutting down all 21 bridges, rail and water exits.
Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch are the killers on the run. A series of events unravel, but Davis always seems to be one step behind. Lots of neatly executed stunts and a plethora of shootings later, Davis nears the truth. But is it what we expect? Well, there is more than the manhunt. To his credit, Brian Kirk maintains interest despite the film being quite uncomplicated. The suspense is in the how and not the why.
The film eventually focuses on maintaining the equilibrium, not going too far in either direction. But that wasn’t the point of the film. The idea was to reassure you that there are good guys and bad guys on both sides (Thanks, Donald) but there are individuals in the system who will protect the public and have sound judgement.
Not sure, it will please people on either side of the debate. But it will entertain them with some intense acting, slick action sequences and an emotional connect; in short popcorntainment. At least unlike our version of police hero-worshipping Daal Chawal, 21 Bridges is willing to concede some space.