Is Deon Taylor the hardest working man in Hollywood? With three films released theatrically within the last year and a half and another three apparently in post-production, the self-proclaimed “creative genius” and “idea generator” (according to his IMDb bio) really is “a force to be reckoned with in the conglomerate world of entertainment”. He doesn’t just stick to one genre either, so after this past spring’s ludicrously fun Dennis Quaid-starring domestic thriller, The Intruder, he switches gears somewhat for the gritty corrupt cop actioner, Black and Blue.
Set among the decimated low-income neighbourhoods of post-Katrina New Orleans, Naomie Harris stars as rookie cop Alicia West, back to serve and protect her hometown after returning from two tours of duty in Afghanistan. Stuck on a night patrol with gruff older officer Deacon Brown (James Moses Black), she’s told to wait in the car while he investigates a disturbance at an abandoned factory. But after hearing a gunshot, she heads inside, only to witness the cold-blooded murder of a local drug dealer by head narcotics agent Terry Malone (a seething Frank Grillo). Capturing it all on her body cam, Malone and his corrupt cop cronies try to kill her but she escapes, beginning a chase through the gang-infested slums as she tries to return back to headquarters to upload the footage. But with Malone putting the word out that West was the one who shot the deceased drug dealer, both the police force and the notorious neighbourhood gang led by preening crime boss Darius (Mike Colter) are out to get her. With seemingly no one to trust, she turns to her old friend, Mouse (Tyrese Gibson), who lives nearby to help her get to safety.
The stage is set for a pulse-pounding run-all-night thrill ride and on that front, Black and Blue delivers in spades. Taylor makes excellent use of the almost post-apocalyptic feeling environment to create a cat-and-mouse chase that never lets its foot off the gas. The villains are plentiful, all seemingly engaging in a scenery-chewing competition with each other, particularly Grillo and Colter as similarly egomaniacal bad guys who just happen to be on opposite sides of the “law”. Slickly shot and featuring a banging soundtrack, it’s the kind of stripped down, bare bones action flick that was all the rage in the ‘80s and ‘90s before colossal superhero fantasies took over everything.
Sure, you definitely have to suspend your disbelief a little more than usual at times, especially as the film hurtles towards its borderline-ridiculous climax. And while it’s great to see Naomie Harris kick ass in this male-dominated arena, it’s unfortunate that Alicia is still so frustratingly naïve in certain moments, particularly in the first act when it seems like the idea of police corruption has never crossed her mind before. Screenwriter Peter A. Dowling sells his lead character out too often in favour of narrative contrivances and the attempts at proselytizing about racism in America are as ham-fisted and superficial as you’d expect from the white British guy who wrote Flightplan.
And yet, despite its faults, Black and Blue still winds up being pretty satisfying, inspiring the preview audience I saw it with to clap and cheer as the end credits started to roll. In an age where so many studio movies feel like cold corporately-made products, it’s refreshing to see one that has a little more heart behind it. I’ll see you in another few months, Mr. Taylor.
- Release Date: 10/25/2019