starring Bruce Willis, Mos Def, David Morse, Cylk Cozart
screenplay by Richard Wenk
directed by Richard Donner
by Walter Chaw There's a lot to like about Richard Donner's ultimately simpering retread of the long-dormant corrupt-cop/asphalt-jungle genre 16 Blocks. Among the highlights is Bruce Willis's drunken, crooked detective Jack, who--sporting a pot belly, a gimpy leg, bad facial hair, flop sweat, and breath you can practically smell through the screen--makes a decision early on to be the hero at odds with ex-partner Frank (David Morse) in transporting his charge Eddie (Mos Def) the titular sixteen city blocks so that Eddie can testify against New York's finest. Standing in their way: an arbitrary time limit and a whole department of collectors for the widows and orphans club, looking to exact a little Giuliani on the suddenly-vigilante pair. Comparisons to Firewall, that other picture buried in the first quarter 2006 starring an over-the-hill tough guy, are inevitable--and revealing, too, in charting the extent to which ego allows Ford and Willis to age as action heroes (Ford: not at all; Willis: a good bit) and, consequently, how successful these films are in crafting their respective scenarios. The standard against which 16 Blocks will be held, however, is one established by the likes of Prince of the City and Serpico (or even a later Sidney Lumet like Q&A)--it's they to which Donner clearly aspires, what with the picture's setting, its admittedly spurious exposé of bad apples on the force, and at least the first hour of Willis's performance, equal parts broken-down gunsel and brown-bagging wino.