Swiftly following his suspenseful home invasion thriller, The Intruder, director Deon Taylor delivers Black & Blue: a chase and evade, corrupt cop action flick that’s pithy but by-the-numbers due to flat characters, slack execution and a banal central concept, yet is bolstered slightly by a well-paced plot.
The set up introduces Naomi Harris’ rookie cop Alicia, who is accosted by racist police officers while out on a morning jog. This opening suggests a compelling drama with substantial issues is about to unfurl, but these themes are soon supressed as the story curtails into clichéd urban crime thriller terrain with a double-crossing cop plot.
Alicia accidentally films a murder on her body camera and is then hunted by the killers who want the footage before she can share it. What follows is a fast and flawed action/chase confrontation that repeatedly derails then re-finds its feet to potter on perfunctorily before stumbling once again.
The script by Peter A. Dowling (Flightplan, Reasonable Doubt) hits requisite beats to not completely stagnate but unravels mechanically as though adhering to a template. When Alicia is targeted by the victim’s associates and turned on by the system she recently became a part of, suspense and tension should be hoisted, but Black and Blue fails to quicken pulses.
Where director Taylor mined tension fittingly in The Intruder, his knack at crafting suspense in the action genre context is questionable. Geoff Zanelli’s Zimmeresque score is also slightly tired. The absence of flair, ingenuity and commanding dialogue is apparent, but better developed characters could have mostly made B&B a more enthralling work.
Themes of institutional racism and loneliness are raised yet could have been better extrapolated to inform/ develop characters and make it more daring and provocative. Its patent lack of depth and blasé execution detract from the conveyer-belt of occasionally fun, hack and slack set-pieces with dispassionate, grubby gun-toting and fisticuff fight scenes.
Naomi Harris brings gravitas to an otherwise flat role with a phenomenal performance, even though her character’s military background and family history remain somewhat vague, making it harder to empathise with her and invest in the drama. Meanwhile, Frank Grillo delivers trademark surliness and stubbled wrath as highly-strung cop with a strop Terry Malone, in a cracking support portrayal of a subgenre stereotype.
Dowling’s script progresses at a pace to ensure no one gets bored but it lacks the depth and introspection to make Black and Blue substantial. What we’re left with is passable urban action jaunt which, despite being bolstered by some fitting realism thanks to its grim, inner city locations and acting, resounds as nothing more than sub-par corrupt US cop fodder which passes time but rarely rivets.
A part fun but predominantly hollow corrupt cop romp that fails to thrill but kills a couple of hours.