If anything, Deon Taylor’s crime thriller is a perfectly fine if somewhat overlong and derivative thriller that skates by mainly because of its charismatic cast including Mike Colter, Tyrese Gibson and Frank Grillo, respectively. It’s a shame because in a world where we’re discussing body cams, police corruption, and inner city crime, “Black and Blue” has the golden opportunity to tackle the issue head on. Instead it hits it briefly and doesn’t do much with the topic, instead building a thriller that feels oddly derivative of Antoine Fuqua’s “Training Day.”
While on patrol in New Orleans, rookie policewoman Alicia inadvertently captures the shooting death of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the only person from the community who’s willing to help her. Now, she finds herself on the run from both the vindictive criminals and the lawmen who desperately want to destroy the incriminating footage before it destroys their plot.
Director Taylor stacks the deck against Alicia almost immediately, as she’s a rookie, gaining the trust of her mostly male colleagues, and is a witness to a heinous crime by a group of well respected officers. The cat and mouse tension amounts to a lot of great moments where Alicia has to think very quickly, and find a way to dodge what were supposed to be her brothers in blue. We can never be sure who to trust, and yet the film also never manages to successfully trick us either. Once Alicia catches wind that everyone in her unit are likely involved, it’s never really suspenseful when she winds up in the clutches of a potential traitor.
Taylor’s direction is tight, for what it’s worth and Naomie Harris handles the role of inadvertent heroine beautifully. Harris can take almost any role and give it a high gloss, and here she’s great as the woefully under prepared rookie who is trying to remain true to her moral code as an officer. After surviving her confrontation by chance, she’s left with no other option but to seek refuge by the people that distrust her the most. The script certainly feels like it wants to confront topics about racial profiling and the stresses of being a police officer, but it dodges it all once the narrative builds steam. “Black and Blue” also suffers mainly from its long in the tooth run time dragging on when it feels like it should be winding down.
Once it does come to a close, you can sense the writers trying to wrap it all up as neatly as possible, even though we know there’s so much more fighting in store for Alicia. “Black and Blue” is just a fine thriller that gets by thanks to its strong performances, slick action and timely undertones. It just often feels like it could have been much more complex by tackling volatile social commentary, in the end.