Crime thrillers/Cop dramas are genres that I have a soft spot for. Maybe it’s because I vividly remember watching Training Day and Dark Blue frequently when I was a teenager. I don’t know why I enjoyed those films as much as I did, but they’re still staples of my ‘pull something off the shelf to watch’ rotation. With the trailer for Black and Blue I had some mild excitement brewing. In the span of those 2+ minutes I knew it was something I wanted to see. So, how did it pan out?
Returning home to a still devastated New Orleans army veteran Alicia (Naomie Harris) joins the police force looking to do right by community she left behind. As a black officer she is looked upon by the community she is trying to help with repulsion and suspicion. She’s told that she’ll have to choose where allegiances lie if she hopes to survive on these streets. Things get worse when on patrol she captures the death of some low level drug dealers at the hands of Terry (Frank Grillo) and his fellow narc officers on her body cam. Knowing their careers and freedom are at stake they enlist a local crime kingpin (Mike Colter) to help put a bounty out on her head. With only local store owner Mouse (Tyrese Gibson) willing to help her she has to fight her way through the streets in order to expose the truth.
“These streets are a war zone.”
The plot is a pretty standard template for this genre. But I really liked how as the story unfolds we begin to learn more of Alicia’s past and her roots in this region. It helped not only flesh out her character, but gave us reason to understand why she is so disappointed that in spite of wanting to be a beacon of hope for these people she’s seen as the enemy. This is where the film digs slightly into the issues that are plaguing inner city communities. (NOTE: I’m not going to dig into politics in this review, but I’m pretty sure most people know what I’m getting at.) It’s unfortunate that the film is a little unwilling to dig further into this, but I cannot fault the filmmakers for wanting keep their film from being overly preachy.
I assume most people who will be interested in seeing this will be doing so for the cast. This is definitely Black and Blue‘s biggest asset. Naomie Harris has always been a phenomenal actress and will bring a lot to her performances. Once again she is in top form as Alicia. From the get go we see her motives and are in her corner one hundred percent. Next up is Tyrese Gibson. It’s one of those things that after a decade of Fast and Furious and Transformers films we tend to forget how good he truly can be when given solid material. I’d love to see him get back to more challenging roles down the line. These two share the majority of the screen time and it is a pleasure watching them play off each other.
“Murder is murder, no matter who you are.”
In the supporting cast are a lot of solid performances. Grillo can play a gruff and intimidating villain in his sleep at this point and even if he was asleep you’d be afraid to cross him. It’s been hard reconciling the fact that Netflix’s Marvel shows are cancelled as I loved all those actors and Colter was no exception. Here unfortunately he’s given a rather two dimensional criminal, but he does the best he can with what he’s given. The biggest unexpected treat was Nafessa Williams. While she has a decent list of credits under her belt this is in fact the first I’ve seen of her work. I look forward to catching more down the line.
I have to admit I was surprised with Deon Taylor’s strong direction. Considering the only other film on his resume that I was aware of (but had not seen) was the horror/comedy Meet the Blacks. Here he handles the action competently and brings real tension to the tight game of cat and mouse Alicia is facing. This is a huge plus as it helps cover some of the more implausible moments in the story.
While not a noteworthy addition to its genre Black and Blue is worth seeing based on the positives I listed above. It’s worth a rental down the line.
Overall Score: 3.5/5