Monday, 18 November 2019

Black and Blue ★★☆☆☆

Naomie Harris is one of the most talented actresses working today, and someone who’s name brings a new layer of quality to any film. In 2016, her talents were finally truly recognised in the cinema industry after her phenomenal performance in Barry Jenkins’ Moonlight, for which she was nominated for a Golden Globe, BAFTA and Academy Award. In 2017, she was appointed an Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) for her services to drama. And yet, 2019 has brought her first true lead role in a film that absolutely does not deserve her talents. Yeah, it’s shit.

Black and Blue is a fast-paced action thriller about a rookie cop (Naomie Harris) who inadvertently captures the murder of a young drug dealer on her body cam. After realizing that the murder was committed by corrupt cops, she teams up with the one person from her community who is willing to help her (Tyrese Gibson) as she tries to escape both the criminals out for revenge and the police who are desperate to destroy the incriminating footage. 

Black and Blue wants to be a powerful study on the effects of institutionalised racism and endemic corruption. She even faces some herself when she joins the force in New Orleans. The film’s first scene is uncomfortable in its realism – when out for a morning jog, Harris’ character is pulled over by a pair of white officers who promptly rough her up before realising she is a fellow officer. Without an apology, they dismiss the situation with “You know how it is”. It’s upsetting and powerful, and I thought woah, ok, this is going to be intense. Then it wasn’t.

Despite a premise with such potential for shocking drama and thrills, Black and Blue is totally buried beneath preposterous plot machinations and an absolutely dreadful script from Peter A. Dowling. The film is totally without substance or character development, meaning we simply do not care about whether or not Naomie Harris’ rookie makes it out of her increasingly far-fetched situation alive. It’s a mess and not the sort of mess you can laugh at and find some mindless entertainment within. Because of the complex and serious themes, the film is totally straight-faced and there are no laughs to be had. It’s just uncomfortably bad.

Unfortunately, the suspenseful scenes of discrimination that give the film the limited impact it has are suffocated by nonsense plot progression and exposition that negate the film’s impact as a whole. It’s a shame because there is a good film somewhere in Black and Blue. Perhaps a tighter edit, better screenplay or more assured direction could’ve unearthed a very impactful and timely little thriller. Instead, we have an amateur affair that feels like a straight-to-DVD Steven Seagal film. Director Deon Taylor’s previous film The Intruder was panned for similar reasons and I actually found a lot to like in it – but here, I’ve got nothing good to say. Black and Blue could’ve been so much more, but unfortunately, it collapses in on itself and implodes into a cinematic mess that totally wastes the stellar talents of its lead. A big disappointment. 

Sam Love

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