Tuesday 18th January 2022

16 Blocks (12A)
Directed by: Richard Donner
Reviewed by: Paul Fonz

Aside from 1978's Superman, director Richard Donner has had most of his success with Mel Gibson starrers like Maverick, Conspiracy Theory and the Lethal Weapon films. 16 Blocks is something of a departure from these light-hearted action films, and unfortunately, will be less successful as a result.

16 Blocks – or as it would be called in Britain "Just Down the Road"
16 Blocks – or as it would be called in Britain "Just Down the Road"

The premise sounds like a blatant rehashing of the Die Hard formula, with Bruce Willis playing a jaded policeman who has to escort a key witness sixteen blocks to the courthouse, so he can testify. The reality, however, is that this film is not in the Die Hard mould and is actually braver and more unusual.

Willis' character, Jack Mosley, is a washed-up, fat alcoholic cop who seems tired of life and commands little to no respect from anyone else on the force anymore. After pulling a night shift Mosley is collared on his way out and ordered to take a witness down to the courthouse by 10 am. He gets no further than the first off-licence (where he stops off for a drink) before the witness, Eddie Bunker (Mos Def) is under attack and Mosley has to struggle with the deadened reflexes of an alcoholic to get them both out of danger.

It soon becomes apparent that the people who want Eddie dead are Jack's long-standing colleagues at the NYPD. Crooked cops – do they come any other way? Willis does an excellent job of portraying a worn out veteran who can barely muster the will to live, let alone struggle to protect an irritating criminal from his friends on the police force. Yet for once the good in his character compels him to do just that.

The action sequences in this film are relatively frequent, gun-heavy, filmed using some serious shakicam and not very memorable. Worse than that, however, is the resolution of the film, which seems somehow predictable and unsatisfying. For a film that starts off with such a brave stance, it is galling to see it finish in a typically neat and heart-warming fashion. If I didn't know any better, I'd guess that some studio suit had "applied the formula" to give it the "happy ending that audiences love". Wait a minute, I don't know any better.

There is some interesting content in this film that definitely marks it out from generic action films like S.W.A.T. (remember that?) and the fact the story is told almost in real time is another indication that the writer and director struggled toward something more innovative than the finished product. Overall, though, I can't really recommend this one to anyone than a die hard Bruce Willis completionist.

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Length: 102 minutes
Certificate: 12A
Official Site:
IMDB Link:
Release Date: 28th April 2006

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