Review by Joseph Tucker
A rookie police officer in New Orleans has to balance her identity as a black woman with her role as a police officer when she witnesses other police officers committing murder.
The short synopsis offered by IMDB of “Black and Blue” is as follows: “A rookie police officer in New Orleans has to balance her identity as a black woman with her role as a police officer when she witnesses other police officers committing murder.” Needless to say, I was excited but for reasons I shouldn’t be. Every year there seems to be a police shooting in which a white officer shoots a black individual in a manner that is usually unjustified and every year the accused officer(s) seem to get off without a hitch. Recently, here in Texas, a female officer shot a man in his own home and received a light sentence. A life was taken and the woman only received a few years. “Black and Blue” had a chance to comment on these incidents but fell short with every chance it received. This film can be looked at in two ways, as a film and only a film, or as a statement piece.
If you void the racial undertones of “Black and Blue,” you come out with a film that is worth the time of an average viewer but just barely. Naomie Harris plays Alicia West, a rookie who has returned to New Orleans to her old stomping ground and witnesses the murder of three individuals and spends the whole movie-making her way back to the precinct to upload her body cam footage to bring those responsible to justice. Her character must weave through back streets and weasel her way out of the hands of not only crooked cops but vengeful gang members as well. Her unwilling counterpart, nicknamed Mouse, is played by Tyrese Gibson and the two have good chemistry throughout as they are chased by a group of officers led by Terry Malone, a narcotics officer played by Frank Grillo. Grillo’s performance may have been good if the role he was given wasn’t the role you always see him in. A military-style grunt who just kicks in doors and yells stuff and reasons with a weapon. It very well could be his signature style, like Vin Diesel or Dawayne Johnson but it falls short and every twist the film wants to bring your way using his character, you can always see it coming a mile away. The one actor I expected more from than anyone was Mike Colter, who plays the vengeful gang leader named Darius who is after Harris’ character when he is told she killed his kin. Having been the lead in “Luke Cage” and a key part of “The Defenders,” which were both incredible, I figured he would be stupendous here. Even his recent debut on cable television as a co-star in the paranormal series “Evil” was worth a watch so I had faith but in the end, I was let down. His character was shallow and really only served one purpose, to get the lead characters to their arcs. There isn’t anything wrong with this but a character can be so much more than what Darius was. His character had little emotion and the writers seemed to rely on the fact that Colter was recognized as a man who beat everyone in previous projects.
The film’s narrative isn’t anything new, rookie finds veterans in illegal cahoots and saves the day. What could have changed this from an average film to a great one is its opportunity to speak not only on racial issues but on police brutality. It pulled its punches in every turn and even had the audacity to start out with racially charged situation so you thought you were going to experience those situations the whole time. There were multiple scenes in which officers who were paired with Harris’ character were violent and unjust with the people who they were encountering and almost every time those situations were given an out or an excuse to do what they did, just like in real life. Maybe it was the suspect had a gun that the rookie hadn’t seen and the officer was saving her or it was the veteran officers having West’s back because they were “Blue” and they took care of their own. Regardless, the movie took its opportunities to be a piece that spoke out on racism and police brutality and threw it in the trash. Films have had a history of putting a female character in distress only for a male character to save her because she can’t do so herself. Films like “Spiderman: Far From Home” actually deleted a scene near the end of the third act between Peter and Mary Jane because it did just that, it made MJ seem like a weak damsel in distress and the director didn’t want that. They wanted a strong female character to inhabit the space. “Black and Blue” did the opposite of this at the very end. There is a moment that defines the film and in conclusion, a white officer saves her from a situation in which he created but it’s made to look like he is the hero. He is celebrated and praise is given to him freely which is the opposite of what this film needs. As a movie, this project is fine but if you are seeing it because you think it’s a positive talking point on the climate between the police and the public they serve, you will be disappointed.
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