Now Playing: 16 BLOCKS
If I had forgotten why I have more or less given up on new movies coming out of Hollywood, this week was a reminder. I Netflixed two 2006 studio thrillers--FIREWALL and 16 BLOCKS--and considered both mediocre.
FIREWALL commits the blasphemy of wasting a terrific supporting cast. One scene finds Alan Arkin, Robert Patrick, Robert Forster and Harrison Ford sharing a scene, and I'll be damned if director Richard Loncraine couldn't find anything cool for them to do together.
Ford plays a Seattle bank manager whose family is kidnapped by Standard Effete Eurotrash Villain #354 (Paul Bettany), who forces Ford to tap into his bank's computer system and transfer $100 million to an offshore account. In their effort to make all movies inoffensive to everybody, Hollywood has become extremely bland when it comes to casting heavies. Aren't you tired of snobby Brits in business suits waving guns? Particularly when they're played by Paul Bettany, who is about as threatening as a junebug. I can think of about 100 actors off the top of my head who would have not only been more charismatic than Bettany, but would have the screen presence to hold the screen opposite Ford, who looks tired and bored in FIREWALL, but is still believable kicking Paul Bettany's ass.
FIREWALL is neither very good nor very bad--both of which would have made it more fun to watch. The same goes for 16 BLOCKS, which is a blatant (and uncredited) ripoff of THE GAUNTLET, a 1977 Clint Eastwood picture that is ten times better, even if it does co-star Sondra Locke.
16 BLOCKS' "Locke" is Mos Def, who may actually be a more obnoxious performer. Bruce Willis, who is very good, plays Burned-Out Alcoholic Big-City Cop #729 (I wonder if BOABCC has ever appeared in a film with SEEV. What am I saying? Of course, he has!). Willis is assigned the shit detail of transporting a petty thief (Mos Def) from jail to the courthouse so he can testify before the grand jury in two hours. The courthouse is only 16 blocks away, but gunmen attack Willis' sedan on the street in broad daylight. A drunken Bruce somehow kills one attacker and wounds another before grabbing Mos and splitting. From there, it's a chase (but not much of one) to the grand jury chambers with the two heroes being pursued by murderous corrupt cops (seemingly the whole damn precinct) led by David Morse, who is excellent (and would have been better in FIREWALL than Paul Bettany, come to think of it...).
Morse is one of those guys who has been an amazing actor for a very long time, but who knows who he is? He spent two seasons on CBS headlining a good crime drama called HACK in which he played--hey, how about that--a corrupt cop. He has the presence and the physical size to dramatically battle Willis on-screen, and their scenes together cook.
The rest of the film is not much. Director Richard Donner doesn't seem interested in the action, and gives us a lot of Mos Def chattering about bullshit. The gimmick of getting a witness to the courthouse by a certain time limit is tried and true, but I've never seen a film where the courthouse was just down the street. There could have been a suspenseful thriller made from this premise, but 16 BLOCKS ain't it.