“Black and Blue” is director, producer and writer Deon Taylor’s second film in a matter of months. He’s operating with a very familiar structure, but Taylor specializes in thrillers & knows how to ratchet up the knob to 11! Taylor’s film is a classic chase movie, as it lays out visual storytelling, terrifically staged action sequences and shoot-outs. Naomie Harris gives a fully committed and magnetic performance. One of the year’s biggest sleeper hits.
Director, producer and writer Deon Taylor has become a filmmaker on the rise since his underrated thriller and his best film yet “Traffik” with Paula Patton in 2018. Taylor is having a busy year by releasing two films in 2019, both films released just months apart from each other. The first from this year was the Dennis Quaid home invasion thriller “The Intruder”. Now in his second release of the year, “Black And Blue” he’s operating with a very familiar structure as an innocent, honorable main character tries to clear her name while evading those who want to do them harm or is trying to get a piece of evidence back.
Academy Award nominee, the great Naomie Harris stars as Alicia who is a rookie cop in blue, that is on the run after capturing a police-involved homicide on her body cam. Alicia finds her inner struggle taken to deadly levels as she is hunted by both the corrupt officers who have framed her for the crime, and the black crime boss residents who see her as just another cop who can’t be trusted. With help from Mouse (“Fast & Furious” Tyrese Gibson), a former friend and local storeowner. Alicia must survive long enough to get the cam footage back to the precinct to clear her name and expose the dirty cops and everyone around her.
Taylor’s film uses the current technology like body cams and current news moments to play with the idea of being watched and a way to fuel the films constant on the go plot. Screenwriter Dowling and Taylor reminds us we live in a “pics and videos” world, where video (whether body-cam or viral) has the power to condemn or exonerate.
Taylor specialises in thrillers and knows how to ratchet up the knob to 11. Screenwriter Peter A. Dowling who wrote the terrific 2005 Jodie Foster thriller “Flightplan”, capably keeps raising the stakes while delivering effective action sequences without CG effects. Taylor fuels “Black And Blue” with visual storytelling and terrifically staged action sequences and shoot-outs. This is a pure old school chase movie. The older viewers may feel a bit nostalgic as it’s a throwback to 90’s cop thrillers as they watch how Taylor choreographs simple but thrilling chase scenes.
Deon Taylor is the only filmmaker actively and successfully keeping the mid-budget 90’s style adult thrillers alive in this age of CGI tentpole studio films. After roughly a half-hour of setup, the one hour forty minute “Black and Blue” is 75 minutes of sustained tension. It’s all anchored and led by a magnetic performance from Naomie Harris, who gets more sweaty, bruised, bloody and tired as she prepares for the bone-crunching finale.
Taylor has a skill for executing tightly wound thrills and tension with a killer premise, and he always works with excellent cinematographers. Daniel Pearl, who shot the original “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre”, lensed his lastest film “The Intruder” and legendary director of photography Dante Spinotti (he previously worked with Taylor on 2018’s “Traffik”), who shot the Michael Mann masterpiece “Heat”, with Al Pacino and Robert DeNiro. Spinotti is appropriately behind the camera as he knows a thing or two about capturing shootouts between the cops and bad guys.
Naomie Harris, gives a no-nonsense performance which she is fully committed to the script’s tight tension. Harris delivers the goods in a big way, especially for just a cop on the run thriller like this one. Her performance is powerful and sympathetic, she is matched in sheer force by a hulking Frank Grillo. She takes the punches, and is thrown around like a rag doll, but she is one tough ass cookie. “Fast & Furious” actor Tyrese Gibson feels out of place, though. Although it might not be his fault as his role is underplayed but he just doesn’t feel right for the role.
Peter Dowling’s script is probably the only thing pulling the whole ship down. It’s a script that is halfway decent, as it only teases an exploration of the conflict faced by black cops, and being torn between loyalty to their people and their brothers in blue. But also as a black woman on a police force that appears to be nothing but men, Alicia is in an especially tight position.
Dowling’s script says little about life in New Orleans (post-Katrina), which could have been an interesting avenue. There is a lot of potential in the story, that can deal with all of these issues but it never does. This is not a hard-hitting look at racial relations between the police and African Americans, as you might think. Instead it’s a 90’s throwback thriller straight out of the David Ayer (“Training Day”, “End Of Watch”, “Street Kings”) playbook. Instead it’s an unapologetic piece of genre filmmaking, in which Naomie Harris is having a bad day in the neighborhood as she is caught between bad cops and a bad neighborhood. Although it has great action, that trademark Deon Taylor tension and great acting from Naomie Harris. “Black And Blue” is one of the years biggest surprises.
GRADE: ★★★1/2☆☆ (3 & 1/2 out of 5)