Black and Blue explores the inside world of New Orleans cops and criminals but with a distinct perspective that primarily focuses on corruption within the force. While there are comments on the trust/mistrust element between the Police and public in the States, plus an early trace of over-aggressive Police brutality, that side of the story drifts to the wayside as the movie becomes more of a classic game of cat and mouse.
Directed by Deon Taylor, and starring the excellent Naomie Harris in the lead role as rookie cop Alicia West, we’re shown early on how she’s learning the reality of the world she’s just signed up to, where the rules are bent to their limits and even if you want to do everything by the letter of the law, that doesn’t mean those around you do – not even those you trust. Despite the chemistry between Alicia and Tyrese Gibson‘s Mouse, the rest of Peter A. Dowling‘s script falters into generic conversations, and pretty predictable lines, but thankfully we’re blessed by the presence of Harris from the very start, she’s dedicated to her character and you can feel everything she does and says.
So, after watching her learning the day-to-day of her New Orleans-set job, there’s a nice touch of unsubtle foreshadowing just before it all kicks off. After taking on an extra shift, Alicia accidentally witnesses, and captures on her body cam, the murder of a young black drug dealer. In the same moment, we also see that it’s been committed by corrupt NARC officers and so they shoot her, in an effort to wipe out the evidence. But, as she’s shot, she falls from a height and this enables her to make a desperate escape because she’s literally got video evidence. From here? It’s the classic ‘chase’ scenario as she tries to out-smart her attackers as they endeavour take her out.
We’re offered backstory on Alicia as Black and Blue progresses, while she is a rookie, she’s got [to be revealed] experience to really look after herself. She’s also from an area in the city that she’s returned to Police and meets up with Gibson’s Mouse, a man who’s willing to help in a tough neighbourhood, and especially when he knows that corrupt cops are after her. From here, they’re now a two-person team, fighting against all the odds to survive with a little bit of Leon and also a touch more The Equalizer 2 thrown in for good measure.
While Black and Blue does offer up truly intense and impressively shot chases-sequences, plus a number of plot twists and turns, none of them really surprised me and a couple of elements felt slotted in to try and drag it out to a longer run-time. I didn’t quite feel Taylor’s film extensively explored the very real issues of integrated racism that exists with American policing that it initially suggests, and so that was slightly disappointing. They also throw a line in about the government not helping post-Katrina but it’s a little too late and feels like a throwaway moment that distracts from the poverty we already see on-screen.
Where the film does succeed is in giving Harris’ Alicia West an impressive platform to show off her physical and mental strength in an extreme, consuming scenario. It goes to show that when you’ve got a lead like her involved, it wins at every level. Also, as mentioned earlier, the chemistry is good between her and Gibson, and they feel like real, central characters. We also get to see corrupt cop-actor Frank Grillo playing [enter your guess here and this isn’t a spoiler at all], plus powerhouse Mike Colter as some type of lead gang dealer with a cool beard, plus Reid Scott in a Police support role to Harris’ Alicia.
Will justice prevail? You’ll have to pick up a copy and find out… but please, please – and this is a message to the higher powers – please get Naomie Harris more lead roles as an action hero, she’s exceptional from start to finish.