Black and Blue (2019)
“Black and Blue” stars Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, and Beau Knapp. Released on October 25, 2019, the film has a police rookie attempting to expose her partner and a squad of dirty cops.
The film is directed by Deon Taylor, who also directed films such as “Dead Tone”, “Chain Letter”, “Traffik”, and “The Intruder”. There are two types of cops in this world. There are the good cops who protect and serve just like any other cop would, and then there are the bad cops who disrespect the symbol of justice by committing many kinds of horrific acts. The latter is what I would call one of the most disgraceful and sickening groups in the entire universe, and if the power of film has taught me anything, it’s that dirty cops are horrible and they need to go away. Speaking of which, it’s time for me to look at another film that involves dirty cops. This latest action thriller comes from director Deon Taylor, who is struggling to impress me with his filmography. If you guys haven’t noticed by now, his last couple of films have appeared in my top ten least favorites lists since 2016 with “Meet the Blacks”, and based on my review of Taylor’s last film “The Intruder”, it looks like this unfortunate streak is not going to disappear anytime soon. Lucky for him, he was able to crank out at least one more film before we move on to a new decade. I wasn’t really excited to see this film because of my previous experiences with Taylor’s other films, but I was willing to check it out anyway because I needed some adrenaline in my life. So how does this one fare compared to his last few films?
The story follows Alicia West (Harris), a rookie who is assigned by the NOPD to investigate a group of drug dealers. She later discovers that the drug dealer’s nephew has been murdered by her partner and his squad of dirty cops and is able to capture the crime scene on her body cam. Forced to go on the run with no one to turn to or trust, including the police department, West has to rely on her skills and a stranger named Milo (Gibson) in order to expose the truth, while the dirty cops will stop at nothing to kill her and destroy the evidence. The film combines the elements of a modern on-the-run action thriller with its societal commentary that involves perception vs reality and how a certain type of community treats the police. It’s a frustrating topic that is complicated to talk about without getting so muck flack from other people, so it’s easier for us to let the power of filmmaking do the talking for us. I was a little bit concerned on how this film is going to turn out because of Taylor’s last couple of films, but after watching it for myself, my concern quickly turned into surprise when I saw that he finally directed something that actually made me give a darn. Even though the film has some moments that didn’t quite hit the right emotional notes for me, the realistic portrayal of its social topics were able to raise itself above its attempt to “Hollywood-ized” everything. Not only that, but it also provided a tense and entertaining thriller that’s both simplistic and heart-pounding in the process. Deon Taylor knew how to get the message across and deliver some good old-fashioned popcorn thrills for his audience at the same time. It’s the type of mixture that could easily be broken if done incorrectly, but luckily for me, he was able to handle it with care without offending everyone. The character of Alicia West was nicely-developed as a conflicted rookie who is torn between the police she’s working for and the community that she once lived, which greatly made the intensity much more real and relatable. Naomie Harris’ performance as West is something that I would call “fierce” and “enticing”. Trust me when I say this, she’s just that good in this movie. Tyrese Gibson also did a really good job with his role as Milo Jackson. There’s this one scene involving him that really convinced me that he has a suitable talent in acting when given the right material. From my personal perspective, Gibson wants to be more than just Roman Pearce from the “Fast & Furious” franchise, and his role in “Black and Blue” is a suitable way for him to get that trend rolling. What I also liked about the film is that the characters themselves didn’t stray too far into being stereotypical, which is one of the common flaws in most action thrillers. It portrayed the characters the way we normally see in real life, so people who are easily offended can rest easy. Aside from its simple formula and some cheesy dialogue, the only minor thing I could do without is the soundtrack, which I found to be a bit off-putting at times given the film’s tone. Feel free to call me out on that one, but that’s just how I feel about it.
Overall, it’s not going to win any awards for its screenplay, but “Black and Blue” has the right amount of thrills and social commentary to provide a respectable source of entertainment and conversation. Despite its flawed attempt at providing strong emotion, the film is elevated by the performances of the two main leads, Deon Taylor’s direction, and its thrilling sequences. After experiencing Taylor’s last three duds, I’m glad to see that he was able to make a solid recovery with this film. In fact, I would even call “Black and Blue” his most tolerable film in his directorial career so far. If you’re into films that combine thrills with their social themes, I believe this one will suit your needs. Just don’t expect it to be Oscar-worthy.
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