BluRay/DVD Reviews

16 BLOCKS

By • Jun 13th, 2006 •

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Warner Bros. Pictures

In May of this year I picked up an old college friend at Austin Peay State University in Clarksville, Tennessee with the intentions of driving South and taking him to see his family in Nashville. It had been awhile since I had seen my friend so I decided to take the back highways, allowing me to concentrate on the conversation a little better. I had to refuel in a city I had never visited called Dull, a city that I had to like because of its blunt honesty. I had the engine looked over and the tank filled by a true professional gasoline technician who said the food inside was quite good. My friend and I entered the bait shop/diner and had a seat at the counter. A quick survey of the inside brought my lunch decision to a solid final. I asked for anything they order from inventory that arrives pre-wrapped. I was at the register paying our bill when I noticed an entrance to another room to my right. I thought to myself, “There’s no way this dump has a gift shop.” I asked the cashier what was through that door. She told me it was a kind of museum of collectibles and antiques the owner liked to show off. She told us to help ourselves.

We entered the room and I won’t describe the hillbilly artifacts and atrocities that the proprietor of this establishment felt he had to share with the public. In the middle of the room, in the distance, was obviously the elite of the items. From the custom casing with real gold trim, and the superior lighting, you could have guessed the Shroud of Turin or the highly sought-after Holy Grail had somehow wound up in a town full of genetic enigmas. I slowly approached the engraved gold plating. It simply stated… ‘Bruce Willis’ hairpiece from the film BANDITS’.
“What the hell?” my friend asked, “Kind of disappointing.”
“What are you talking about? It’s awesome,” I insisted. “It’s the Olivier of rugs. That toop has talent!”
We quickly continued down the highway and I had a different feeling about myself. It was as if I had run into Bruce Willis himself and had a quick meaningful conversation with the movie star.
Except this was…his hairpiece.

16 BLOCKS is by no means an original idea. We’ve seen it time and time again, re-arranged and re-cast all the way back to when filming in black and white was the only option directors had. I sat down to this movie with trepidations merely because I don’t like Richard Donner films. I like the man, don’t get me wrong. I enjoy his commentaries and interviews immensely and I am very interested in his early television work, but I’ve never liked his movies.

Bruce Willis plays Detective Jack Mosley, a haunted alcoholic who has used up his value amongst his peers. His physical assignments, when not forced behind a desk, detail remedial jobs like protecting crime scenes until the actual detectives arrive. Mosley is content with this arrangement, after all his real career is drinking. His alcoholism has reached a level of expertise where it’s his only commitment in life. He walks around in a daze, sporting the haggard look of somebody beaten by his past. His supervisors force him into the job of moving prisoner Eddie Bunker to the district attorney’s office where he will be the star witness in a grand jury hearing. Mosley has 118 minutes to transport Bunker sixteen blocks to the courthouse. The defendant in this hearing and his co-workers want Bunker dead and will stop at nothing to keep him from testifying, including using the evil talents of fellow detective, Frank Nugent (the freakishly tall David Morse). Detective Nugent and Mosley have a past at the police department.

Like I said earlier, this is not new ground we are covering here. However, the way the story is approached is very enlivening. The movie plays more like a drama with exciting and believable action sequences throughout. The action is handled with the utmost intelligence. I’ve heard people complain of Mos Def’s performance of Eddie Bunker (the character’s name is a wink to crime fiction and RESERVOIR DOGS fans) and will admit he sounds more of a wino than Willis’ boozy part. Yet I see something much deeper going on with the accent Def chose for his role and the performance in general. He has toned down his hip-hop persona and created a compelling study of a streetwise motor-mouth who only wants success in life, but has made some bad decisions and always seems to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. I look forward to future roles from Mr. Def.

David Morse, as usual, never disappoints. He’s still one of the best character actors working today. The scenes of him trying to convince Mosley to give up Bunker are exciting and well executed.

This may very well be Bruce Willis’ finest moment. His low-key and quiet Mosley is the polar opposite of his John McClane of DIE HARD fame. His decision to protect Bunker may at first come across as heroic, but when you don’t care if you live or die, there is usually a much deeper and personal reason for your actions. Mosley’s is redemption and he goes about it whole-heartedly. He has a shady past, which is the root of his self-loathing and alcohol abuse.

The alternate ending included on the DVD is as good as the final cut. I can see why they went with the proper ending though; it probably added ten million more dollars to the box office grosses. The deleted scenes should have stayed that way.

Do I think that hairy thing in the diner display case was genuinely affiliated with Bruce Willis? Not at all. Do I think this film is Richard Donner’s best and Bruce Willis’ most intriguing action character? Without a doubt.


Directed by: Richard Donner
Produced by: Randall Emmett, Avi Lerner, Arnold Rifkin, John Thompson and Jim Van Wyck
Screenplay by: Richard Wenk
Film Editing by: Steve Mirkovich

Running Time: 102 Minutes
Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
Dolby Digital 5.1
Supplements: Alternate Ending
Deleted Scenes with Commentary by the Director and Screenwriter

With: Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse.

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