Here’s a couple of American actors for you. Probably moviegoers will remember Chadwick Boseman from “Black Panther” and maybe from “Get On Up.” They may also recall J.K. Simmons from both “Spiderman” and “Justice League.” I think of him as the cowboy cop character who took over “Patriots Day,” Marky Mark’s movie about the Boston Marathon bombing.
Boseman and Simmons appear in the new, vaguely satisfactory crime film “21 Bridges.”
It is about two youngish crooks who are directed by a drug dealer to a bar and grill in New York City. Entering it, after hours and masked, they find not the 100 pounds of cocaine they expected, but 1,000 pounds — more than they can get out to the car before cops are all over the place.
Who has called the cops? Why is there so much coke in the safe? The crooks kill seven cops in escaping. Then, they go to the dealer to turn the white powder into as much money as they can get.
They destroy their getaway car and buy another. But the streets are swarming with police. The hoods manage to make it to a safe house where they deposit their dough and arrange to have passports waiting for them in Miami.
He is in charge of finding the cop killers. It was his idea to close all the routes onto or off of Manhattan Island in New York. He has a reputation as a policeman who is not adverse to using his sidearm.
The police captain from the precinct where the first seven cops were killed is McKenna (Simmons). And from that information, detective story fans and regular moviegoers can predict almost every turn the story will take. The key hint is that the action will have to turn back to McKenna. Otherwise why cast Simmons in the part?
McKenna somehow manages to send a narcotics cop (Sienna Miller) along with Davis. So we know how that will work out, too. There are no surprises in “21 Bridges.”
There is some acting. Boseman has been studying how hotshot actors present rehearsed facial expressions to the camera, and that’s about all he does here. But, to be fair, that’s about all the opportunity he has to act in the movie.
The screenplay is not strong. Its dialog is studded with expressions we are used to hearing.
Sometimes all the talking takes the form of strings of cliches.
But the real problem for Boseman is that there are three scenes in which he is asked to talk to characters who have the drop on him.
He must persuade them to do the right thing. Unfortunately, the words he has been given are far from inspired and are very unlikely to be effective.
During one of the movie’s half dozen familiar action settings (the chase on the subway train), one knows what is going to happen to one character a considerable time before it does.
But there are other events the movie should explain but never does. How do the cops know about the safe house? Why is there so much cocaine at the bar? How does Davis get the information on the finger drive “out into the world”? We can guess the answers to these questions but shouldn’t be expected to do so.
That finger drive business is another soft spot in the writing. Computer stuff doesn’t work well on the big screen. Small USB memory storage units aren’t very visual, and what they contain doesn’t show up well in theaters, either.
Nevertheless, the oddly named “21 Bridges” keeps going and going. And if we usually know what’s going to happen next, maybe we enjoy the ritual.