Crime doesn’t pay in “21 Bridges”

Updated: May 11


(1) Its been a long night for N.Y.P.D. homicide detective Andre Davis played by producer/actor Chadwick Boseman, investigating the killings of eight NYC policemen. (2) Young Andre (Christian Isaiah) grieves the loss of his father, who was killed in the line of duty.

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4K Ultra HD, Blu-ray, Digital copy; 2019; R for violence and profanity throughout; Streaming via Amazon Video/Prime, Apple (4K), FandangoNOW (4K), Google Play, Vudu (4K), YouTube (4K)

Best extra: Commentary with Director Brian Kirk and Editor Tim Murrell

“BLACK PANTHER’S” Chadwick Boseman stars as a righteous N.Y.P.D. homicide detective along with an equally fierce Sienna Miller, Stephan James and Taylor Kitsch. Throw in J.K. Simmons and you’ve got a near-unbeatable cast.

Boseman’s Andre Davis is explaining his high kill rate to Internal Affairs in an early scene. His answer is  “Justice comes at a cost,” kind of like '70s style cops Baretta and Dirty Harry. He also likes to say, “I’d rather look the devil in the eye.” Then eight cops are killed while responding to a burglary and Simmons’ 85th Squad Captain McKenna tells Davis to take care of business. McKenna wants to protect the cops’ families from lengthy trials and appeals.

It’s an easy guess knowing something's wrong. Heist guys Ray and Michael, played by Kitsch and James, planned to steal 30 kilos of cocaine from an upscale restaurant, but instead find 300. When a party of cops casually shows up at the front and back doors the shootout begins. The officers do not appear to be on duty or responding to a threat. After massive, bloody bullet play, Ray and Michael take off with a massive haul, but leave plenty of coke behind.

“We got twenty-one bridges in and out of Manhattan. Shut them down. Three rivers. Close them. Four tunnels. Block them. Stop every train and loop the subways. Then, we flood the island with blue.” — Andre Davis played by Chadwick Boseman

(1&2) Detective Davis explains to Internal Affairs that he's shot eight people in nine years. (3) He returns home to his ailing mother.

So the chase is on! What works for “21 Bridges” is the fast-paced, tough as nails action. A runtime of 99 minutes and minimal VFX also sets it apart from today’s standard policiers. Problems come in the lack of standout characterization. Boseman’s true blue detective slides in with a hardcore attitude that never changes too much whether he’s talking to his invalid mother or threatening villains. Miller’s fierce narcotics detective and single mother Frankie Burns is the exception; she also has a good scene among the three deleted scenes.

Irish director Brian Kirk makes his feature film debut with “21 Bridges.” His past work includes episodes of “Game of Thrones,” “Luther,” and “Penny Dreadful.” Co-writer Matthew Michael Carnahan is known for “World War Z,” “The Kingdom,” “Deepwater Horizon,” “Mosul” and “Lions for Lambs.”


Kirk and Editor Tim Murrell, another cable graduate known for “Patrick Melrose,” “The Terror,” and “Medici,” deliver a commentary concentrating on development, scenes, and action. From the opening funeral scene, Kirk says it was one of those filmmaking surprises - calling it a beautiful shot - when an overhead drone captured several hundred white gloves saluting in unisons on a rainy day from the N.Y.P.D. extras, as young Andre (Christian Isaiah) grieves the loss of his father who was killed in the line of duty. "The scene sets the big themes, establishing the weight of his father's legacy and the tension between wanting revenge, but needing justice," says the director. Plus, there are three deleted scenes.


Universal continues to push toward every single movie getting a 4K/HDR digital release going forward. Kirk and cinematographer Paul Cameron whose filmed some very good action/crime movies ("Collateral," "Man on Fire" and "The Commuter") captured the action in Philadelphia and New York City, using 3.4K digital cameras and then mastered in 2K (2.39:1 aspect ratio) with a touch of added film grain filtering. The 4K has a very good look with consistent “city” color (lots of shine, neon, and muted tones), while the HDR10 toning provides excellent skin tones, detail, and texture. Plus the expanded contrast levels are striking from fine to super bright highlights and solid blacks in cityscapes, offices, subway, alleyways, tunnels, streets, and other locations. The Blu-ray also does quite well.

A nice update for 4K disc fans, Concorde Entertainment in Germany plans a physical 4K release of "21 Bridges" in June. It's already posted on the Amazon Germany site.

(1) The Heist goes bad and five cops are killed inside and outside the upscale restaurant. (2&3) Davis and Narcotic Detective Frankie Burns (Sienna Miller) are paired up to find the killers. (4) 85th Squad Captain McKenna (J.K. Simmons) comforts two of his detectives who lost buddies in the gunfight.


The digital copy is only coded with the lesser Dolby Digital compressed sound, while the Blu-ray gets the more dynamic DTS-HD Master Audio six-channel soundtrack, which delivers clear dialogue and effects throughout the room. There are plenty of action scenes, with lots of gunfire and physical activity. The score is by Henry Jackman of “The Kingsman” films, “Kong: Skull Island,” the Dwayne Johnson “Jumanji” films, and “Big Hero 6,” among others, and Alex Belcher.

All in all, we liked “21 Bridges”; it was a fine Saturday night home at the movies – perhaps a tad predictable, but fast-moving. As for Boseman’s Detective Andre Davis, all agreed we’d be up for further adventures.

– Kay Reynolds

(1) Ray (Taylor Kitsch), ex-military is one of the prime suspects. (2) He and Michael (Stephan James) are trying to stash the cash they got for the 50 kilos with Adi (Alexander Siddig), an insider financial guy for criminals, who promises to send their money to an off-shore bank. (3) The chase is on! (4) Lt. Kelly is shot in the hand by Ray and Michael outside of Adi's apartment.

(1) Ray is wounded. (2) Michael holds Detective Burns. (3&4) And like any good crime thriller, there's a showdown on the NYC subway.


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