“BLACK AND BLUE” starring Naomie Harris and Tyrese Gibson is now in theaters. It’s directed by Deon Taylor with Frank Grillo and Mike Colter filling out the main cast. This story is set in New Orleans and centers on a rookie cop who takes a second shift for her partner. She ends up witnessing other officers committing murder and with the footage captured on her body camera she becomes the target of the criminal cops. Fleeing for help in a neighborhood that doesn’t get proper treatment from police will cause this rookie to balance her identity as a black woman and as a cop, while trying to figure out how she can use the footage on her body cam to impose justice.
I was curious about this movie as a huge fan of the genre and of Naomie Harris. But countering that was a slight worry with Deon Taylor directing. I think he certainly has talent in his craft. But the films he makes often have a polish to them that doesn’t always appeal to me. They feel a bit artificial with characters that lack a humanized feel. And I think his reliance on cinematic styling can at times hinder the intensity of the stories being told. There was a mix of that again with this movie. One that despite a having a gritty tone, never felt that way while watching. There was a distinct studio feel to it, although the characters were more relatable and able to connect with.
The lead performance from Naomie Harris was without question the best part of the film. There was an emotional intensity to her in this role that worked. She brought layering to the character and despite minimal backdrop, you can still get behind the motivation to achieve her goals. I think her best moments were in the more subtly charged scenes. With the writing being a little on the thin side, she was forced into a couple theatrical moments that didn’t land with the impact that was intended. However, she greatly elevated the material, and brought life to a character that was admittedly weak in development.
The story for the most part happens in real-time, so you do take the emotional journey with the character. It creates some effective ‘what would you do’ moments early on. And while the characters may rely on the predictable choice to often, there’s still a level of enjoyment to be had while watching. Even if most of it will be forgotten within a week or so. Because that lack of originality was the main issue with the film. There is a timeliness to the subject-matter in terms of police violence and corrupt behavior. But the narrative this theme is worked into is a plug-and-play collection of tropes and moves from other films. So, it’s relatively easy to foresee where it will go, and how it will get there.
The first half of the movie was much stronger than the back half. It starts out by setting the tone and backdrop in a bleak region of New Orleans, with this rookie cop. Things go wrong quickly and from there she’s on the run. It was suspenseful, unnerving, and with nice camerawork, it was tense and immersive at the same time. But as it progresses the film leans heavier on its message. In doing so it also kicks in the melodramatics which hindered the appealing moody intensity the story built early on. It’s gets overly formulaic, and a grounded thriller begins to feel like an assembly line genre flick with a routine third-act closing that has been done too many times.
The musical score did work to build an ominous tension during many scenes but it’s also a blatant mash-up of the phenomenal score from “Sicario” so even it felt a little borrowed. Tyrese Gibson however brought a lot of effort to the role. He was much better than his “Fast and Furious” performances recently, and despite being given some clunky dialogue, he was able to remind me that he’s a good actor when given the chance. Grillo was pretty much being Grillo, and it worked for the role, but it was a persona we have seen from him before. Which could sum the movie as a whole and overall it wasn’t a bad one, but it wasn’t memorable either. It lacked a lot of ambition on the story side and even with Harris bringing the effort, it’s a movie best enjoyed at home on the couch.