Review: 16 Blocks

Posted by: Dean Kish  //  March 3, 2006 @ 11:59am

Filed under: Reviews

Imagine if you will, you are sitting at your desk and you're a struggling screenwriter and your project is to write a screenplay using clichéd techniques such as "slight of hand", "misdirection", "archetypes", and "caricatures". It's just a test to see if you can do it.

Well during the writing process, you may find yourself drifting towards the "cop genre" because hasn't every cop show or film suffered from over-use of technique at some point or another? So you choose to write a screenplay about cops and, just for originality, let's make all of them bad and one guy is against the corrupt system (insert sarcastic tone here).

Now that you have your genre, you would probably choose the "buddy-cop" formula because, well, it's perfect and has been done to death.

After the test is complete and your script is written, you hear that "over-the-hill" director Richard Donner and star Bruce Willis have read the script by mistake and are interested in making it a film. Well that's perfect, both are quite familiar with the "buddy-cop" scenario. Donner created the Lethal Weapon franchise and Willis starred in The Last Boy Scout.

But it was a joke, a test to see if you could really use every cop cliché known to man. Then they hypothetically offer you $4 million for the script. You are dumb-struck and shrug your shoulders and take the money.

If you haven't realized it yet, the script you just sold was 16 Blocks and your name could be Richard Wenk.

Basically, 16 Blocks must have been created some way like how I described above. The whole film is just one big, over-used, and stomped-on cliché. First, you have the alcoholic cop (Bruce Willis) who is looking for redemption and trying to become a man once more.

Second, you have the wise-cracking sidekick (Mos Def) who is in trouble with the law and has to deal with this bloated drunk who would rather breathe on him than save him. Then here's a twist, the cop's old partner (David Morse) is this corrupt guy who is trying to cover everything up. Throw these caricatures into a "real-time" 2-hour cat-and-mouse scenario and you have 16 Blocks.

There are so many things wrong with this movie it's hard to say what's good. I have to admit I liked Willis, though. His grumbling, bloated cop/drunk is done very well. And the film not for one moment makes him into an actual action hero. This man is a loser and the film never apologizes for that fact. It's a solid performance and it's probably the only thing in the film done correctly that makes sense.

Mos Def has a lot of potential to be a good character actor. 16 Blocks is not a good example of that. Basically, the best way to describe his performance is that it's like watching a Chris Tucker movie after chugging a half bottle of NyQuil. I think the filmmakers were trying for a Chris Tucker or a 48-Hrs Eddie Murphy, but instead just got an overly annoying, nasally-congested comic relief. But come to think of it, he wasn't really that funny.

I like David Morse. I am not scared to admit that. After witnessing his sleep-walking performance in this film, I am beginning to change my interpretation of the man. He was a solid actor until he became a carbon-copied duplicate of every villain performance the man has ever done. I know he can change, what do you think?

The person who should probably be ashamed the most is director Richard Donner. This guy needs to retire from directing and stick to producing. After 2003's Timeline, I forgave him stating that the man is a legend and brought classic films like Lethal Weapon, Superman, and Maverick. But now I think the man should just stop embarrassing himself and ride off into the sunset. The man is a legend, so let's remember him that way.

16 Blocks should be studied by screen-writing students as a warning of what not to do. If it does garner cult status, I bet it will be as a movie geek's drinking game, like take 2 shots every time there is a cop flick cliché and take three drinks every time Willis shoots or takes a drink. (1.5 out of 5) So Says the Soothsayer.

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