Black and Blue: Bargain-basement chase flick like an echo from a lost age

Review: This often-violent film that paints a grim picture of inner-city decay swivels unconvincingly to happy-clappy

Naomie Harris in Black and Blue

Film Title: Black and Blue

Director: Deon Taylor

Starring: Naomie Harris, Tyrese Gibson, Frank Grillo, Mike Colter, Reid Scott, Beau Knapp, Nafessa Williams

Genre: Thriller

Running Time: 108 min

Fri, Oct 25, 2019, 05:00


We should, perhaps, be grateful that studios are still putting the odd mid-budget cop thriller into cinemas. A decade or so ago, Black and Blue, a busy pursuit thriller set in New Orleans, would have generated decent business on Saturday nights. Now it feels like an echo from a lost age.

We should also be grateful that Naomie Harris, among the best of her generation, gets a decent leading role as an African-American cop who sees too much for comfort. And the film works for a while. Coming across like bargain-basement Lumet, Black and Blue sends Alicia West (Harris) on an unexpected shift with a hitherto unfamiliar colleague. Following various contrived circumstances, she witnesses cops executing a drug dealer and – after recording the offence on her bodycam – flees into a consistently unfriendly city: neither cops nor African-American citizens are her friends.

Black and Blue initially gets by on momentum and righteous anger. The film is clued into institutional racism and the challenges facing a working-class black woman in the police force. Harris has just the right sort of stressed charisma to convince as the prey in a desperate pursuit.

Unfortunately, the clichés and absurdities mount so rapidly that, by the halfway point, it proves hard to care about her predicament. There is always a handy pile of boxes to break any falls from treacherous fire escapes. Mike Colter barely manages to contain his embarrassment as a drug supremo whose character seems composed from discarded cut scenes in Grand Theft Auto. The script never fully sells its central premise: Alicia just has too many escape routes open.

This might be tolerable if Black and Blue didn’t collapse into still-more unconvincing saviour mode in its closing 15 minutes. This is an often-violent film that paints a grim picture of inner-city decay and the specific betrayals visited on New Orleans. As the credits loom, however, it swivels towards happy-clappy solutions that betray the modest cynicism that has come before.

Move on, folks. Nothing to see here.

Opens on October 25th