T&L reviews: Black and Blue
Ben Peyton reviews this crime thriller and finds a mixed bag…
Director: Deon Taylor
Starring: Naomie Harris, Mike Colter, Frank Grillo, Reid Scott, Tyrese Gibson, Nafessa Williams, Deneen Tyler and James Moses Black
Set in a predominantly African-American suburb of New Orleans, gangs control the neighbourhoods and the police won’t respond to 911 calls unless one of their own, a blue, is in trouble. Army veteran, but rookie cop Alicia West (Harris) is wet behind the ears and simply wants to make a difference in her local community and help whoever needs it. Pulling a double shift as a favour to her partner (Scott), she’s paired up with seasoned officer, Deacon Brown (Black).
Responding to an off-the-record callout, West stumbles upon a gangland style execution of unarmed drug dealers. Her presence rumbled, things go from bad to worse as she realises the executioners are officers from her precinct. Capturing the grisly event on her body-cam, her colleagues turn on her to cover their tracks. Surviving their assassination attempt and finding herself framed for the murders, West faces a race against time, and the police, to hand the footage in and clear her name. She teams up with childhood friend Mouse (Gibson) and the pair must also deal with crime lord Darius (Colter) and his gang who believe West was behind the murders.
Showcasing the problems faced of being a black person with white people policing them, there are several moments of tension highlighting the institutionalized racism and abusive behaviour that’s, sadly, become commonplace in America. However, whilst Black and Blue should be praised for portraying this, it does so in a heavy-handed and clichéd way featuring stereotypical characters that often border on parody. Pretty much all the cops featured are racist, corrupt or both and most of the neglected residents are cop-hating gangsters who shoot first and don’t ask questions later.
Naomie Harris is on blistering form, starting out naively underestimating the amount of violence simmering beneath the surface of her hometown before quickly adapting as circumstances around her spiral out of control and she shows she has no time to die and well and truly carries the film. Director Deon Taylor produces some excellent fights and chases, but occasionally gets it wrong. Overlong shots of Darius looking threateningly towards the camera attempting to appear intimidating has the opposite effect and poorly developed characters threaten to undo the good work created by Harris and the promising story. It’s frustrating because there’s a solid action-thriller in here struggling to be seen.
The twists are predictable, there are some totally unnecessary jump scares and time seems to stand still as the clock counts down during the climax, but Black and Blue has an important, relevant message and just about manages to get itself out of jail thanks mainly to Naomie Harris and her arresting performance.
Black and Blue rides into UK cinemas on Friday 25 October.
Read our interview with Naomie Harris