Nothing says it’s going to be a poor movie week at the McGavin house than seeing Bruce Willis’ (Moonlighting) mug on the DVD. For the last couple years, Willis has just been collecting paycheck while new action heroes half his age not only steal the roles he used to be offered but they even started to steal his women. But in this movie, 16 Block, Willis ironically plays a worn down detective for the NYPD who gave up a while ago and years of hard living has wrecked havoc on his life and left him with a limp and a massively receding hairline. Maybe because of tenure, or out of sympathy, he has been able to keep his job even though everyone know he keeps liquor bottles in his desk. He is also routinely assigned to jobs so easy, it’s an insult to give to an able-bodied colleague like watching a dead body until other authorities come to dispose of it.
Another seamlessly inane chore is to deliver a witness from lockup to the courthouse sixteen blocks away. Needless to say things don’t go as planned or this would have been the most boring movie since Napoleon Dynamite. Nope, instead we have another story of cops gone bad but luckily, this is revealed early on because crooked cop as the big plot twist has become a tired plot point (keep in mind the actual plot twist isn’t hard to guess). And in what could be a nod to 24, the movie seems to happen in real time aside from a brief prologue as Willis only has about 140 minutes to get the felon to the courthouse as the jury gets dismissed at 10:00.
The felon turned state’s evidence is portrayed by rapper Mos Def (Black Head of CIA on Chappelle’s Show) is captivating once you get past his "Mike Tyson trying to imitate an Italian" lisp. Added to the great performance is how Mos Def’s character never stops talking, but Def is able to keep him from getting extremely annoying. You also have to give it up to Willis and Def, along with director Richard Donner (Superman), who keep the unlikely duo from becoming a cinema buddy flick cliché like for instance 48 Hours Donner’s Lethal Weapon franchise. And with any movie like this you need a bad guy and David Morse plays this one perfectly as he never goes over the top most likely because he never seems as if he thinks Willis will ever make it to the courthouse. There are a few plot holes (like why is one of the cops Def fingered still on the force, shouldn’t he be in jail or at least suspended until the result of the trial?) but as long as you let these minor hiccups go, you should be thoroughly entertained.
After you watch the movie, make sure you checkout the bonus features on the DVD. There are a few deleted scenes that are commented on by Donner and screenwriter Richard Wenk that are worth watching even though they were left on the cutting room floor. Then there is an alternative ending that is actually better from a storytelling point of view, although the original ending is more satisfying. You can watch the alternative ending by itself or within the context of the movie.
16 Blocks gets a on my Terror Alert Scale.