Black and Blue is directed by Deon Taylor. The film stars Naomie Harris, Mike Colter, Frank Grillo, and Tyrese Gibson.
Alicia West is a rookie serving with the New Orleans Police Department, having returned to the city following a tour of duty in the military. She’s shocked at how the neighborhood has degraded, and how many of her former associates hesitate to associate with her due to her being a police officer. When she’s wounded upon witnessing an execution from corrupt cops, she finds herself on the run, but unable to get guidance from anyone, and not knowing who on the force is friend or foe. It’s up to West to get her body cam footage back to the precinct, uploaded to expose the corrupt officers.
I can’t say I was especially enthusiastic for this screening, as police dramas and stories about a wrongfully-accused person with no one left to trust aren’t exactly anything rare. Fortunately, Black and Blue won this moviegoer over due to the strengths of a talented cast including Naomie Harris, sharp writing, relevant social commentary and a look at societal issues, and gritty, violent action when and where needed, but not to the point of excess. A few minor flaws don’t hold it back from being a solid production.
Naomie Harris is probably best known for playing Moneypenny in the newer James Bond movies, but she proves here beautifully she can carry a movie. Her character here is the one dedicated to do the right thing, even if it means it’s her against the world. Her relationships with everyone in the film feel genuine and believable, and at no point does she feel like a caricature or a cliche in an overdone genre. The strong supporting performances help as well, including the likes of Mike Colter and Frank Grillo.
I also give the movie credit for its unique choice of settings in New Orleans. It seems like New York City and Los Angeles are the most commonly used cities in dramas such as this, so hats off to the production crew for showing us a different part of the USA for a change. They also manage to paint of a picture of a desolate and destitute neighborhood that’s anything but welcoming, even to a woman turned police officer who was once one of their peers. It’s a gritty and violent area where anything can happen, and in this film, often does. The atmosphere is certainly violent and earns the movie its R rating, but I’m pleased to say it never feels excessive or overdone.
It’s also a film which touches on some social issues, and while the movie doesn’t get quite as deep into these elements as I’d like, there’s no denying it’s a solid element and a nice addition. Does one truly have to pick a side between “Black and Blue” (African-American people and the police?) How far is too far when it comes to enforcing the law? Should law enforcement truly neglect areas unless there’s a major police emergency which are already deemed lost causes? Throughout the movie, these issues come to light, and there will definitely be food for thought long after the movie ends, though in this respect, it presents more questions than answers.
Only a handful of elements drag the movie down, including a running time which is about 10-15 minutes longer than necessary, bogged down by many tertiary characters and a dragged-out finale, and a villain who simply does not seem to die or even feel pain no matter how many times he’s struck or wounded (could he possibly be a distant relative of Robin Spitz-Swallows from the Austin Powers franchise?)
I saw the film at a screening in Texas Station’s Regal movie theater, which is currently undergoing a renovation. The room we were in was completely redone, with a beautiful screen, and gorgeous reclining seating (albeit not the fancy ones with the electronic footrests). When the renovation is done, I have no doubt the entire multiplex will look absolutely gorgeous; the lobby already looks fantastic.
People in the audience at my screening of Black and Blue stood up and cheered and applauded loudly throughout the movie, clearly sympathizing with the heroine and her plight, as well as her allies and triumphs over the enemies, including gangsters and corrupt cops. It isn’t the most original cop drama ever made, but a superb performance from Naomie Harris, unique setting, and a look at some relevant social issues help it stand a cut above the rest. Definitely recommended.
Rating: Three stars out of four.
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